It’s a fact that fewer young adults in America are getting married. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, more people between the ages of 18 and 34 lived with their parents than with a spouse in 2016.
Although there are a number of reasons for the marriage decline, part of the explanation is a growing scarcity of “economically attractive” men as potential marriage partners, say researchers at Cornell University.
The study’s authors developed a list of demographic characteristics of younger men who would make good marriage prospects, based on those of men who already are married. The characteristics they considered included education level, employment status and annual income. They then compared this “ideal” with demographics of young unmarried men at the national, state, and local levels.
They found that at all levels, the good prospects for marriage had an average income that was about 58% higher than the actual unmarried men available. Potential husbands also were 30% more likely to be employed, and 19% more likely to have a college degree.
“Most American women hope to marry, but current shortages of marriageable men – men with a stable job and a good income – make this increasingly difficult,” said lead author Daniel T. Lichter, Ph.D. “Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women’s educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors.”
The Census Bureau’s report confirms that a higher percentage of young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, only 25% of young men had incomes below $30,000 a year; by 2016, that number had risen to 41%.
The Cornell study was recently published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.