Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Heterosexual Women: Pick That Diploma Or Pick That Husband. Your Choice!

The lonely plight of the educated woman is a very old trope in opinion writing about men and women and heterosexual marriage, and I'm not blameless when it comes to writing on that topic, though I tend to write from the other side.

My first blog post on this fascinating topic was 2003.  I quote from it:

1890's: A marriage study concluded that only 28 percent of college-educated women could get married.

1940's: A Cornell University study said that college-educated single women had no more than a 65 percent chance of getting married.

1940's: This Week (a Sunday magazine): A college education "skyrockets your chances of becoming an old maid."
2000's: Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children, (2002):"Nowadays, the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful a woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child."
And more on the same topic can be found in this post, this post and this post.   Also here, here and here. More links can be had inside some of those posts.

So what does the actual data tell us about women, education levels and marriage today?  Two sources I found by quick Googling tell me that

a) in a 2010 study the marriage rates of college-educated women were essentially the same as the marriage rates of women who had some college and the marriage rates of women who only had a high school diploma.  All those were higher than the marriage rates of women with less than a high school diploma.*


b) Historically, college-educated women were less likely to marry.  But beginning with people born in 1955–64, college-educated women became more likely than other women to ever marry.  Recent projections suggest that the educational gap in marriage will continue to widen over time.  Other evidence has shown that higher-earning women are also increasingly more likely to marry.

What made me write about this again, you might ask.  Well, Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper in Finland published an "opinion" piece on the topic of those poor highly learned women who  just can't catch a husband, possibly because men want to dominate women (evolutionary psychology), possibly because religions tell them to do that (both the Bible and the Quran tell men that they are superior), or possibly because men lack the self-confidence to marry a woman with more education than the man has.  She might want to boss him about!

The piece ends with a lamentation about the need for more children, presumably by highly educated women.

I have always enjoyed those they-sky-is-falling-wimminz-have-degrees! pieces for several reasons.

They are ALWAYS about the impossibility for heterosexual women to find a husband, even though the roughly average numbers of men and women in the fertile years tells us that any vast army of single women would have to be matched by a vast army of single men****.  But these stories are never about the plight of the single men who would want to get married.  That is extremely puzzling.

Well, not really, because the subtext in that opinion piece is to scare women away from higher education, to tell them that if they go to medical school they will sleep only with their stethoscopes or if they go to law school they will sleep only with their law books.  So pick the diploma or pick the husband.

That's how I interpreted the message, what with being an old hand in reading these types of opinions.  But the people commenting on the piece saw the article as man-bashing, and I can see their point, at least on the superficial level, though I strongly disagree about the actual aim of the piece.

The response to the article reflected that man-bashing assumption:  Over half the comments are woman-bashing, in particular the bashing of women with university degrees, who have only learned stuff by memorizing it and repeating it like a parrot, who are fat feminists who hate men, who are arrogant and full of their own greatness and so on.  Another third addressed those comments, so a good fight could be enjoyed by all.  The rest were about the need to have women who are feminine, cook well, and listen extremely well, not these arrogant harpies who have upended traditional sex roles and such.

Sigh.  I should never read the comments.  I know that, but I need a twelve-step program to make me stop reading them.  It's like an addiction.  I close the computer, work away, do tai chi, and then I'm drawn back, as if by a giant magnet, and I have to read them, because some tiny flame inside my heart thinks that they might actually be good ones, this time, though they never have been good ones yet!

*   These data from the NLSY79 apply to individuals born between 1957 and 1965.   They were interviewed in 2010.  The same study also found that divorce rates were lower for college-educated women than for women with less education.

** This is a direct quote from the article, which also addresses racial and ethnic differences in marriage rates.  Table 3 in the article shows marriage patterns for men and women in different ethnic and racial groups by levels of education and notes the destructive impact of economic disparities on the marriage rates of both less educated blacks and now also less educated whites.

Although the actual percentages differ, more educated men and women were in 2012 more likely to have been ever married (including, of course, being married right now) than men and women with less education, with the exception of educated white women who were equally likely to have ever been married as the less educated groups of white women.

Thus, none of the recent evidence supports the assertion that it is the educated women who cannot find a husband.

***  I haven't bothered translating the piece here.  I can do that if you think it's necessary, but it's time-consuming.   The important point is this:  It seems perfectly fine to publish an opinion piece which doesn't give any data which shows that  the presumed problem (educated women not finding husbands) actually exists.  It doesn't exist in the US, but of course it could exist in Finland.  Or not.  We cannot tell, because the evidence is not provided.

The piece is clickbait, of course, though I am sad that even an august newspaper must resort to that.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the usual comment which states that certain sex roles are "natural."  You can guess which arrangement that might be.  Hint:  It's the arrangement where one spouse is the employer and the other spouse the employee, with power relationships based on that.  It's not the partnership or team arrangement.  

****  Except in the case of polyandry, of course!