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March 17 2017

News Flash: The Decline of Marriage Harms Young Men

by Charlotte Hays

Nicholas Eberstadt's important book "Men Without Work: America's Invisible Crisis" painted a dire picture of America's "vast army of jobless men who are no longer even looking for work."

Today, in an oped headlined "The Increasing Significance of the Decline of Men," Thomas Edsall goes over much of the same territory. I urge you to read Edsall's column.

Edsall cites a 2014 study by the Dallas Federal Reserve entitled “Middle-Skill Jobs Lost in U.S. Labor Market Polarization” that indicates that working class men haven't been as adaptable as women of the same socio-economic status:

While women were hit much harder than men by the disappearance of middle-skill jobs, the majority of women managed to upgrade their skills and find better-paying jobs. By comparison, more than half of men who lost middle-skill jobs had to settle for lower-paying occupations.

From 1979 to 2007, seven percent of men and 16 percent of women with middle-skill jobs lost their positions, according to the Dallas Fed study. Four percent of these men moved to low-skill work, and 3 percent moved to high-skill jobs. Almost all the women, 15 percent, moved into high-skill jobs, with only 1 percent moving to low-skilled work.

What specific group of men fail to move up most often?

Men whose childhood years were marked by family disruption seem to fare the worst.

Boys raised in single-parent households seemed to suffer more that their sisters, according to a paper by David Autor, an economist at M.I.T., and four co-authors. Economic and educational outcomes were worse for the boys. Unfortunately, this carried through to their adult lives, when the boys from single-parent families continued to do less well than their female counterparts.

The value of growing up in a two-parent household of married, biological parents almost can't be overestimated for young men:

The recent increase in dysfunctional behavior among non-college white men correlates with the substantial increase in the rate of white nonmarital births, up from 22.2 in 1993 to 35.7 percent in 2014. In 1965, the white nonmarital birthrate was 3.4 percent.

At the same time, the divorce rate for college graduates has declined from 34.8 percent among those born between 1950 and 1955 to 29.9 percent among those born between 1957 and 1964. In contrast, the divorce rate for those without college degrees increased over the same period from 44.3 percent to 50.6 percent.

While marriages are breaking up more in the working class, an extensive study of divorce found that “infidelity, domestic violence, and substance abuse were the most often endorsed ‘final straw’ reasons” for the dissolution of marriages. These are all behaviors that men from disrupted families — who often have difficulty holding relationships together — frequently demonstrate.

For many men without college degrees, the scaffolding that underpinned their fathers’ lives has been torn down. David Leegee, an emeritus professor of political science at Notre Dame, wrote me by email:

The institutions they knew to process authoritatively the economic and social changes they faced in earlier times are gone or undermined — the union, the Catholic Church, the industrial bar with co-workers, the compliant wife — and what has replaced it, if anything, is an unvetted information technology that yields little truth or comfort, and nurtures anomie and anger.

While overall trends are negative, it is a positive sign that the liberal outlets are now noticing the effect of the decline of marriage.

Edsall's article is well-worth reading.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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