Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Mrs. Degree

Women's Enews has an interesting article about marriage and highly educated women. Traditionally, more educated women were less likely to be married in the U.S., but this seems to be changing. As the article notes:

In 1980, a woman with three years of graduate school was 13 percent less likely to be married than a woman with only a high-school diploma. By 2000, that gap shrank to less than 5 percent...

More surprisingly, while the general rate of marriage among women aged 40-44 is falling, the most educated women in this age group are actually marrying at increasing rates:

... Rose found an overall decline in the percentage of women between ages 40 and 44 who were married. In 2000, 72 percent were married, down from 81 percent in 1980.
The decline in marriage rates for women in that age bracket is roughly equivalent for more- and less-educated women. Between 1980 and 2000 marriage rates for women with a high-school education declined 5 percentage points to 91 percent. For women with college education, the rate declined by the same 5 percentage points to 88 percent.
Women with three years of graduate school, meanwhile, have bucked the declining trend. For them the marriage rate has actually increased by 3 percentage points, to 86 percent.

What explains this change? One researcher speculates that marriage has become more egalitarian and less about division of labor between the sexes (i.e., about women cleaning and keeping house and about men going out to work).
Would this change affect the desirability of marriage for men and women in the same way? I wonder. It still seems to me that even researchers sometimes assume that all women (whatever their sexual orientation or other values) want to get married, and if they don't marry the reason must be that nobody asked them. I'd like to see a study looking at women's own decision-making in greater detail.

Still, this snippet of news is important, especially given the continuous mythmaking in the media about the unhappily liberated successful women who can't "get" a man or babies. Remember Sylvia Hewlet's lament about the professional barren women? Remember the urban myth that a forty-year old woman is more likely to get killed in a terrorist attack than to get married? Remember that "you can't have it all"? Somehow I doubt that the injection of these new pieces of evidence will have much evidence on this particular anti-feminist enterprise. It's far too ingrained in the so-called liberal mainstream media.