Threats to Marriage

There's an excellent oped in the Week in Review section of today's NY Times about the news that a majority of women are now living without a spouse for what social scientists say is the first time.  In her opinion piece today, Kate Zernike argues that economics has a lot to do with this trend.  College educated women, she says, are significantly more likely to marry (and less likely to divorce) than less educated women.  And one important reason, she suggests, has to do with increasing economic inequality and the difficulty for working families of making ends meet:

Maybe in the past, a man with little education nevertheless had agood-paying manufacturing job, with a health care and pension plan. Hewas a catch and represented stability.

Today, it may behyperbolic to talk about the emasculation of the blue-collar man. Butit is not only liberals concerned with the wealth gap who are watchingthese national trends with alarm. Social and religious conservativeshave called on society to do more to address economic strains faced bythis class.

Perhaps, unlike gay marriage (whose mechanism for threatening marriage I have never really understood), rising inequality and the stagnation of working class incomes is a "threat to marriage" that conservatives and liberals can agree is worth fighting.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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