Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family

marriage-markets-book

In their new book Marriage Markets, law professors June Carbone and Naomi Cahn point out perhaps the single most important fact about the state of 21st century American marriage: it’s bifurcating.

It is not just that marriage among the poor has disappeared, although it has.  It is not just that marriage is declining dramatically among the middle third of American society, although it is.  Divorce rates continue to rise and out of wedlock births are becoming the new middle-American normal.

The amazing, unaddressed paradox of marriage in our times that these scholars set out to investigate is: why is marriage strengthening in the top third while it is simultaneous disintegrating not only among the poor, but in the broad non-college-educated middle class?  Why is marriage getting weaker and stronger at the same time in different social classes?

These scholars reject norms as a primary cause of marriage decline to focus attention on the collapse of wages in the middle third of the American economy. The jobs that used to sustain the married family in the middle third aren’t there, and in this they are right: Wage stagnation is hurting the family. In college-educated American, husbands still make at least as much as their wives, and often much more. This gives married mothers options: a very supportive second income and pair of hands and/or a neo-traditional marriage where they can cut back on work or stay home to care for children.  Without jobs that pay a family wage, few men make good husbands.

But to date these scholars also fail to focus on the next weird and strange paradox their data are pointing to: the same jobs are open to both men and women.  Why are middle-third women, especially new mothers, responding to the collapse of marriage by radically increasing their work effort and their efforts to educationally upgrade while the men they are having babies with refuse to “step up”?

Marriage Markets is a book worth reading, pondering and discussing.  The collapse of the middle-class wage is the unsung tragedy of our generation.  But to understand the collapse of marriage in middle America we also have to face, explore and understand the new most pressing question: how do we motivate boys and young men to want to become the kind of hardworking, appreciative, and responsible husbands and fathers women want to marry—and how do we do so in a way that women love rather than resent as patriarchal and oppressive?

How do we motivate the men?

Marriage is a two-gender problem. How do we craft a script about sex, gender, parenting and marriage that strikes both men and women as a good deal and as a social ideal?  Then how do we make sure our economic, political and legal structures support and reinforce that script?

The alternative is living with the consequences of unscripted sexuality and gender, the unmarriage culture, which is the new middle-class reality. Carbone and Cahn believe if you can create more, higher wage, middle class jobs, marriage will be better off. They are right, provided those jobs motivate men at least as much as young women.

5 comments
BillBaltar
BillBaltar

The problem is that you have to have above-average desire and/or ability to attain the financial stability suitable for marriage. The demand for both types of inputs to production, human (labor) and non-human (capital assets), seems to be at an all-time low. I attribute this to two factors: (1) the replacement of labor by an increase of the use of capital assets, and (2) the concentration of the ownership of capital assets. In societies throughout the world, purchasing power is inadequate to sustain a free society; we are watching our society turn into the slave society that Hilaire Belloc warned about in his book, The Servile State. When you combine this condition with the widespread idea that women no longer need men, the foundation of society, the family, disintegrates.

BillBaltar
BillBaltar

From CESJ (http://www.cesj.org/welcome-center/): "If you are someone who believes that defective and unjust systems are diminishing the freedom, well-being and personal sovereignty of most people in America and throughout the world . . . If you seek peaceful solutions and a just alternative to the power- and ownership-concentrating systems of plutocratic capitalism and redistributive socialism; and . . . If you want to work with others to redesign and rebuild “the system” to serve the good of not merely the few or the majority, but of every human being . . . Then CESJ needs you! http://www.cesj.org/welcome-center/

BillBaltar
BillBaltar

From CESJ (http://www.cesj.org/welcome-center/):


"If you are someone who believes that defective and unjust systems are diminishing the freedom, well-being and personal sovereignty of most people in America and throughout the world . . .


If you seek peaceful solutions and a just alternative to the power- and ownership-concentrating systems of plutocratic capitalism and redistributive socialism; and . . .


If you want to work with others to redesign and rebuild “the system” to serve the good of not merely the few or the majority, but of every human being . . .


Then CESJ needs you!

http://www.cesj.org/welcome-center/

lhfry
lhfry

Marx and Engels advocated undermining marriage as a permanent, monogamous and exclusive relationship. They understood that the kinship structure it creates, as well as adherence to what they termed "bourgeois values," (self-reliance, self-restraint, and deferred gratification) would make it difficult if not impossible to impose communism on a polity.    The left (communists, socialists, progressives - whatever they call themselves now) in the West has carried on this effort for decades and they are largely succeeding.    Only those who have read no history would be puzzled by the outcome.

lhfry
lhfry

Marx and Engels advocated undermining marriage as a permanent, monogamous and exclusive relationship. They understood that the kinship structure it creates, as well as adherence to what they termed "bourgeois values," (self-reliance, self-restraint, and deferred gratification) would make it difficult if not impossible to impose communism on a polity.    The left (communists, socialists, progressives - whatever they call themselves now) in the West has carried on this effort for decades and they are largely succeeding.    Only those who have read no history would be puzzled by the outcome.