Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More women unmarried than married

Last night I saw a story on the NBC NIghtly News called, "Watch out, men! More women opt to live alone." A similar story ran in the NY Times* on Sunday and is still one of the most e-mailed articles. The big news is that according to the Census, more than 51% of women are unmarried.

Let me first say that Erin and I discuss the declining rate of marriage in the conclusion of our book, which makes me feel sort of like a smarty. Thanks for letting me get that out of the way.

Here are some of the reasons they mention for the changing stats:
"Women are delaying marriage. And they're living longer as widows. Or, like Baltimore attorney Catherine Flynn, they are in no hurry to get remarried after a divorce. Some have partners and just choose not to marry. Those who follow such trends say it's another sign of women's independence."

That the NBC story only interviewed a 51 divorced women left me wondering if they spoke to any of these couples who are choosing to remain single or to any of the single woman who are choosing to delay marriage. From what we heard in speaking with hundreds of young women, marriage pressure is alive and well. Take a look at any newsstand and you'll see myriad bridal mags and tabloids speculating on who will get hitched next.

The stats do not lie, more women are single than married, but why then do we continue to feel the pressure? Why is the wedding industry still growing? Why is there a whole People Magazine devoted to celebrity weddings?

One statement that made me quetion whether the statisticians had any cultural understanding, came just after they listed Oprah and Condeleeza as two examples of women going it alone: "marriage rates for African American women are especially low, just 30%." Is that a good thing? Are African American women choosing to not get married? I get the feeling that the demographers need to take a sociology class.

And, my last disjointed question: what about men? If 51% of women are unmarried, does that mean the same is true of men? Are there more women than men? Why are they just reporting on women? Last I looked, it took two to make a marriage.

*I have not read the NY Times piece yet so if they cover any of this, please do not blast me.


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