Monday, February 19, 2018

Jane Austen in 2018

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
A wonderful opening line from Pride and Prejudice.

Whether or not it is an universal truth, for a while now I have been worried about the changing fortunes of single men--many do not seem to be capable of possessing "a good fortune," which then makes it less likely that they will find a wife.

Tyler Cowen provides me with more to worry about when he asks, "Why are marriage rates rising for educated Americans but falling for the less educated?"

At this point, it is tempting to rewrite Jane Austen's opener as:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good education, must be in want of a wife.
But, let's not race ahead.

It is not really about the education alone; "more jobs demand good social skills."  Women are more skilled in this than men are.
How about the polarization of marriage rates across the well-educated (almost steady) and the less well-educated (drastically falling)? Well, if you are an educated, high-earning man with a good white-collar job, you will meet more women at work than before. You are facing less competition from other men with comparable workplace status, and so your marriage prospects may be quite attractive. But lower-status men don't have it nearly as good in the marriage market, and many women may prefer to stay single.
I have been saying all these for years!

Why do women prefer to be single?
You don’t want to marry a man who is in all likelihood not economically viable, because it’s not a free lunch.

Like "Olivia Alfano, a 29-year-old single mother living in Evansville, Indiana":
 The money is pretty good, she told me: She drives a BMW and was able to buy a house last year. Alfano now wants to go into management, which she thinks will give her more security in the long run. When I asked her why she hadn’t married, she told me, “I haven’t run into someone I would consider doing that with.”
The times are changing. Many men have yet to even understand the changes, leave alone respond constructively.  The better educated and prepared women population “creates a surplus of men” at the low end who are not going to get married."  And, therefore, "millions of these less well educated men are not going to get the benefits of marriage":
Married men live longer, are less likely to become alcoholic, take drugs, commit suicide, etc.
The less educated men will, also, kill many in mass shootings, beat up foreigners, and vote for trump!

Thus, the modified Jane Austen opener:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good fortune, is not in want of a husband.


Ramesh said...

That's a stunning first line for a novel. Is that how Pride and Prejudice starts ?

A bigger issue is the very institution of marriage. The institution itself is under profound stress from the developments in culture & way of life. For every Olivia Alfano that there is, there are also men who think exactly the same. There are simply too many changes to our way of life that I believe that marriage as it currently stands will get obsolete and something else will take its place. Of course, there would be profound social consequences.

Sure the better educated and prepared women are not going to marry a less educated guy. But there are lots of less educated women too. I am not as downbeat as you for the chances of men in the future and that women will outshine men always.

Sriram Khé said...

"But there are lots of less educated women too"
In the US, it has been for a while now that female students outnumber male students in higher education. A while. The trend continues. At my college, women make up more than 60 percent of the student body.
In India, too, the trend is of young women going to college.

Yes, the institution of marriage is under a whole lot of stress, across cultures and religions. Which is a good thing because it is almost always a sign of women getting more rights, instead of the atrocious treatment they have received over the centuries at the hands of men.