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.”

***

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.

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34 comments on “Demographics

  1. Aggie says:

    I didn’t know this either. You inspired me to check. Women in physics an engineering still have a sizable pool of potential mates. http://www.aps.org/programs/education/statistics/womenmajors.cfm

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yes, as long as both want to marry a fellow physicist/engineer. The point of the author of the article is that among all college graduates, there are so many more women than men now that women who want to marry men who are also college graduates are in stiff competition for mates. Add to that the fact that it has traditionally been far more common for college-educated men to marry women without college educations (thus removing them from the pool of potential mates for the college-educated women who want a mate with a degree) and the disparity is even greater. Of course it’s only a “problem” until social norms reverse (as they will have to). For women generally it seems like a nice problem to have, as it reflects how much they are outperforming men academically these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. smcasson says:

    When I got married, we were both 23 (6 years ago) and my friends at the time all were very surprised. We felt like we had waited TOO LONG already, having already dated for 7 years. I was definitely in the minority in my group of friends.
    I laughed at “some folks are still mad”. Man, long memories, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Until I met Cherie I’d never had a relationship that I wanted to mature into marriage. I recall thinking that if I was still unmarried by the time I was 30, then I was destined to never marry. Things have certainly changed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. avwalters says:

    Elopement is the smart way to get married. If you’ve been together awhile, the ceremony and party seem anticlimactic. If you haven’t, you probably shouldn’t be marrying. I tend to eschew those Hallmark industries that try to tell me “the right way” to do things, that in my mind should be personal and not conventional. The “wedding” industry does just that, and costs a fortune to boot. Give my me day at the county clerk’s office and I’m happy.
    I’m not sure one needs to hold out for college educated. Compatible seems a better criterion, a match for your values, and sharing a vision for where life should take you. There are plenty of bright, engaging people who didn’t get a shot at college. The crux here is that there can be a “highly marriageable” degree holder up against someone who is self-directed and intellectually curious. I’d take the curious and engaged person first–as that’s a combination that will last a lifetime. Too many people, college educated or not, think that learning is something you do as a young person–and then they hang their brains at the door, thereafter.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Bill says:

      I certainly agree with you on both counts. And any stigma against white collar women marrying blue collar men is going to vanish if this trend continues, as it should. When Cherie and I got married, I was a young lawyer and she was a paralegal still working on her undergrad degree, one class at at time in night school. Us getting married didn’t cut against any social norms. But there seems to have been (and perhaps still is) a double standard when it comes to women with higher education marrying men without. But I think that will change. I know lots of professional men with wives who didn’t have college degrees, but I only know two women (one a physician and one a lawyer) whose husbands didn’t go to college. Given the ever growing higher education gap between men and women, that will change.

      Like

  4. BeeHappee says:

    Makes me think of “If I were a carpenter and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway, would you have my baby” 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • shoreacres says:

      Given what I’ve seen of the world, I’d give that carpenter real consideration.

      Liked by 2 people

      • BeeHappee says:

        No kidding. How about a gambler, Linda? 🙂 Just folk songs goin’ through my head.
        But seriously, two decades of working in all types of male-dominated industries, tons of nice people everywhere, but sad to say, the higher you go…. more bad stuff floats to the top. Which brings me back to Crawford’s book Shop Class as Soulcraft. I just discussed it with someone today, the unhealthy separation of people into white collar and blue collar. On the other hand, there is a large subset of society now that considers college degree useless and having useful meaningful life is becoming more ‘hip’ and less of a ‘failure’. Ooops, digressed.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      And now you caused that song to get stuck in my head. 🙂

      Like

  5. Laurie Graves says:

    Hear, hear! And I count it as progress that women can go to college, marry later—or not at all—and decide when and if they want children. Recently, I went to a lecture given by a friend about his Franco-American ancestors. His great-great grandmother had 13 or 14 children and died in childbirth with the last one. She was just worn out, I expect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Absolutely. I started college at the University of Virginia in 1978. My incoming class was the first in which the number of men and women were approximately the same. Until 1970 women weren’t allowed to attend UVa, a public university. Historically the main argument used to keep women out had been that they were supposedly not intellectually capable of the academic demands. History has certainly proven that belief to be ridiculous. In those days women who did go to college were expected to prepare to be teachers or nurses. Of course most women were expected to stay home and make babies (a noble and essential role–but not one that should be forced on someone).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Yes, indeed! That last sentence really captures it. Of course there’s nothing wrong with staying home and having babies, but there’s also nothing wrong with going to college, with becoming an astronaut or a scientist or…Also, I think of all the wasted and frustrated talent when society insisted that women had only one role.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. bobraxton says:

    Looking to the day when women (professional and educated – or not) exercise “en mass” their collective power and pack the White House, Supreme Court, Senate and House of Representatives as well as the states. How is it that so relatively few females occupy many of the seats of power – the vote has been around almost a century. Time for things to shift – a lot more.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’s just a matter of time. Inevitable, I’d argue. Although women have had the right to vote a while, it’s only been in the last 40 years or so that women have started to have a fair chance to compete in what had always been a “man’s world.” And I’d guess that as a group women have outperformed the expectations of most women’s libbers of the 60s and 70s. Given a fair chance to compete, they’ve not only equaled men, but are now besting them.

      Like

  7. Joanna says:

    I’m not sure I would want skewed numbers to make the shift. I see here in Latvia many women working hard and still they let the men hold the power or at least the emblematic jobs at the top (although there is a female Prime Minister at the moment and there has been a female President). Having many women does not always guarantee the shift unfortunately it would seem. Also are those who get to the top, ones who really should be there or are they just the same as power mad men? I want to see hearts shift and both genders honoured and valued for what they bring to the table. I want to see a rise in respect for other people regardless of their background or skin colour and I want to see a rise in integrity

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      Me too and hopefully those desires are fairly universal. When I started practicing law in 1982 it was still essentially a boy’s club, but that’s just not the case anymore. In another 10-20 years, at the way things are going, the profession could very well be dominated by women. As women continue to significantly outperform men academically, they’re kicking down a lot of doors that had historically been closed to them. Of course there is still a lot of patriarchy to overcome in our culture, but it seems inevitable to me that those days will soon become things of the past. It will also be important, I think, to make sure that we don’t evolve into a culture that disparages and demeans women who voluntarily choose to take more traditional roles or who aren’t interested in careers in traditionally male occupations. We see far too much of that too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joanna says:

        Oh yes! As a woman who stayed at home for years I appreciate that comment. I have now returned to academia and my experience over the years in volunteer roles and raising kids has been invaluable to the research I now do in trying to encourage the kinds of practices that listens to people in planning for development

        Like

  8. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, the college statistics do surprise me. There’s a high percentage of foreign born professionals that graduate as well. Almost all my mother in law’s doctors are foreign born. It also is interesting to me that in our culture today those that can get married don’t really want to and those that can’t get married want to. What’s up with that? I have noticed that a percentage of college educated people are working in a totally unrelated field than what they studied. Statistics say that in Nebraska the high school graduates are decreasing. Many of my daughter’s (age 31) friends have had to get GED degrees from the community college in their middle 20s. As for me, I got a two year technology degree from Iowa State University; landed a career job that I loved; worked for the same company for 41 years; retired with benefits and pension. I never regretted only getting a two year degree. What I’m saying is that education is an ever changing thing. I consider that I’m being educated every single day as I satisfy my curiosity. Learning to me doesn’t end with a diploma. Believe me when I say that helping my grandson with the new age math is definitely teaching me new skills. I’m convinced that the mind is like a muscle. If I don’t exercise it every day, it will wither and die.

    Have a great educational day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m not certain, but I think noncitizen physicians are allowed visas in some cases only if they agree to work in under-served areas (the places American doctors would prefer not to work). We have a lot of foreign doctors here too, for that reason I suspect. Of course that works to the benefit of communities like ours, which otherwise likely wouldn’t be able to attract physicians of their quality.

      There are a whole lot of interesting demographic issues arising out of those college numbers. There is a very serious question these days of whether too many people are going to college (and coming out deeply in debt). The folks who choose to learn a trade instead are often doing much better financially than their debt-strapped college-educated friends. The fact that women aren’t having as many babies as they once did is also a reflection of our transition from an agricultural society, when those kids were all needed on the farm and then would take care of their parents in their old age. In Europe and Japan the population is decreasing and IIRC it would be in the U.S. but for immigration. With declining birthrates, there is a serious concern about whether there will be a large enough taxpaying workforce to provide the revenue to pay for the social services of the elderly. Another potential problem is that it tends to be only among the “educated” that birth rates are declining. When friends of mine (with professional jobs) decided to stop having children after having two, the husband’s mother (a school teacher in Michigan) told him, “The problem is that people like you, who should have lots of kids, only have one or two. And people who shouldn’t have any, have lots of them.”

      Liked by 1 person

  9. EllaDee says:

    My mind ran away with the possibilities of the nuances of the flipside to “nearly half (49.5%) of American households the head of household is unmarried”… Of the 51.5% are they married to another member of that household, or otherwise!
    But what I really question is relevance the term “head of household”. In my own, who would be deemed such, me or the G.O.? From our POV we operate equally.
    Regardless of education levels it’s good to see a shifting of cultural paradigms… where people are just people whether they are nurses, mechanics, directors, CEO’s or domestic engineers, and there’s no stigma attached to marrying above or below “your station” or education levels…

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Good question about “head of household.” I’m not sure what that means. I’m sure in the old days it meant husband, if there was one. Maybe our IRS (tax collectors) designate the highest earner as head of household. But I’m not sure. There’s no “head” in our household either and all of our income is joint.

      But for purposes of these statistics I think it just distinguishes dependents from those on whom they depend. So a household of 5 could be one unmarried adult and 4 children, or two married adults and 3 children. According to this data, in almost half the households the “head” of it is unmarried.

      Like

  10. ain't for city gals says:

    There is certainly nothing wrong with plumbers or mechanics! I am (was) a professional woman and I have been married to the best finish carpenter ever for so many years I lost count! Those plumbers, mechanics and carpenters are the ones you want ! My nieces (6 of them) are all professional women….lawyers, nurses, teachers etc.) …they all followed my footsteps and married trade men and they couldn’t be happier….and the same for their husbands.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Very cool. You’re a trendsetter. 🙂 And may I also put in a good word for farmers. 🙂
      I should have mentioned that the woman my nephew is marrying has a college degree, but he does not.

      Like

  11. Got married the first time around at 22, and possibly that was too young. Or let me put it another way. I was 48 the second time around and I definitely wasn’t too old. 🙂 My niece, a lawyer, happily lives with a carpenter/contractor. –Curt

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Seems I missed this comment earlier Curt. I was still an irresponsible kid at 22. Definitely would’ve been too young for me. My sister was in her late forties when she married for the first time. Sometimes I reckon you just can’t rush finding the ideal spouse. You and Peggy seem to be a great match. I’m sure you’d say it was worth waiting for. 🙂

      Like

  12. iggy says:

    “Higher education empowers women, and the continued empowerment of women is the cure the world needs for much of what currently ails it. ”

    Could you elaborate on this belief?

    It doesn’t seem to be working out very well in practice. Of course, the separation of women from home and family is essential to the Gramscian intent of undermining a stable culture.

    Would be interested to hear your view on this.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      What I had mainly in mind was curbing the population growth in the poorest parts of the world. When girls are allowed to go to school they tend to marry later and have fewer children. Reducing population growth in the global south should help alleviate the poverty and suffering there and hopefully lead to a stable society less dependent upon charity and aid. Allowing girls to get an education should also contribute to reducing violence. On top of all that, it’s the fair and just thing to do. It also seems that it would unleash a lot of talent and brainpower that currently isn’t being given a chance.

      Like

      • iggy says:

        In theory.

        Yet, the stone cold reality is thus, that what were once problems unique to the third world have now become problems within first world nations, while growing in the third world as well. And, what were once social problems largely confined to societal subsets have now become mainstream. Out of wedlock pregnancy rates in the 50’s for example, largely a phenomenon existing in the black community, have not only exploded in the original realm, but have exploded in the white community as well. (note to delicate flowers, substitute whatever PC terms seem appropriate)

        More poverty, more violence, yet with more education, of women.

        The theory, it seems to not be working?

        Like

  13. iggy says:

    Ah, and upon further reflection, it occurs to me that at least two well known groups defy the higher education leads to more stable society theme:

    Amish (& Mennonites)
    Mormons

    Both are noted for large families, productivity, stable social groups, and so on.

    And, more importantly both groups are known for eschewing such things as wymins studies, exercises in diversity and such.

    There must be another answer, one that doesn’t rely on the theme of college for all, I believe. Knowing many women (some in my own family) with advanced degrees, the vast majority are on a whole less happy, less content than others not similarly educated/indoctrinated.

    What do you think?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Well I don’t claim to have any expertise on these subjects. The Amish are a special case I think. Neither men nor women pursue higher education. I admire their voluntary simplicity lifestyle, with the emphasis on voluntary. I’d like everyone to have the option of living traditional agrarian lifestyles, but no one should have it forced on them. As for Mormons, I consulted the Google and it seems Mormons place strong emphasis on education. Mormon women are much more likely to go to college than non-Mormon women. 44.3% of Mormon females have a post-high school education, compared to only 27.7% of the US population in general.

      The importance of empowering women in the developing world is that when women are allowed to go to school, in general they delay starting families and have fewer children. In the developing world population growth is often outpacing the society’s ability to provide for that many people. But as the birth rate slows and the education level increases, things improve.

      I agree that advanced degrees don’t necessarily translate into happiness. These days there are probably too many people going to college and getting little for it other than debt.

      Like

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