Demographics

One of my nephews is getting married later this month, bringing to mind a couple of things. First, the preparations remind me of why Cherie and I chose to elope. It was over 27 years ago, and some folks are probably still a little mad about it. But it made a lot of sense to us, neither of us caring for all the fuss that goes into wedding planning.

The other thing the impending nuptials bring to mind is the demographic shift that is occurring these days, portending some very significant changes to our society I think.

My nephew and his bride-to-be are in their 30’s and haven’t been married before. They’ve been in a relationship for many years already and they don’t intend to have any children. There’s nothing unusual about that these days.

I was 27 when I got married, and that felt like getting married late in life. The norm in the community I grew up in was still to get married and start having children right out of high school.

The average age of first marriage in 1960 was 22. Today it is 29. And in nearly half (49.5%) of American households the head of household is unmarried (by comparison, in 1960 72% of American households were headed by married people). The times, they are a changing.

According to this article, the fact that fewer people are choosing to marry and that, if they do, they are choosing to marry at a later age is attributable to “simple math” (at least among college-educated women). There just aren’t enough men to go around.

In 2012, 34 percent more women than men graduated from American colleges, and the U.S. Department of Education expects this gap to reach 47 percent by 2023. The imbalance has spilled over into the post-college dating scene. According to data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, there are now 5.5 million college-educated women in the United States between the ages of 22 and 29 vs. 4.1 million such men. In other words, the dating pool for straight, millennial, college graduates has four women for every three men. No wonder some men are in no rush to settle down and more women are giving up on what used to be called “playing hard to get.”

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There are plenty of eligible men available across America. It’s just that there are more women among professional, college-educated adults. And that means professional women can either date plumbers and mechanics or they can compete with other professional women to seek the attention of guys with 100 other women available on phone apps, guys who might be willing to settle down only when they’re in their late 30s.

Don’t blame the technology; it’s widespread higher education that’s caused this to happen.

I didn’t realize the disparity between college-educated men and college-educated women had grown so large, but it doesn’t surprise me. I recall 15-20 years ago when I was involved in recruiting law school grads for my firm, that not only were there more women than men in the law school classes, but among the most desirable candidates (those with the best grades and the most accomplished) the disparity was even greater–considerably more women than men. According to a physician I spoke to, the same was true at medical schools.

Higher education empowers women, and the continued empowerment of women is the cure the world needs for much of what currently ails it. And as the percentage of our population that is highly-educated increasingly becomes dominated by women, we may be in store for a cultural paradigm shift that is probably way overdue.