Welcome to my weekly digest for February 3, 2023.
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Women Prefer to Marry Up
From the annals of least surprising research findings, a study called The Economics of Hypergamy found that in Norway, the world’s most gender equal country according to the United States, women still prefer to marry up in terms of income. It’s very readable, and summarizes many basic research findings from the literature that should be a baseline for people thinking about the intersexual dynamics of dating and marriage.
How can hypergamy be explained in this context? We will point to two mechanisms, which we explore in more detail in an Online Appendix. The first operates through fertility differences and relates to the biological fact that men are reproductive for a longer period than women. As previously highlighted by, for example, Siow (1998) and Polachek, Zhang, and Zhou (2015), this implies that fertile women are relatively scarce and can be choosy with respect to a partner’s attributes, such as education or earnings potential. We show in the Online Appendix that the fertility mechanism implies that a higher fraction of women marry, that a higher fraction of men marry twice, and that the marriage propensity is more highly correlated with earnings potential among males than among females. The mechanism is more important the higher is the divorce rate and the higher is the gender differences in remarrying rates. If no one divorces, the mechanism has no bite.
The second mechanism operates through gender differences in preferences over potential mating partners. Men and women care about features other than earnings when choosing a partner, such as physical attractiveness and the ability of caring/parenthood, and may weight these attributes differently. Our driving assumption is that females give more weight to income potential than men when choosing between partners. Again our model implies a stronger relationship between own income potential and the propensity to marry for males than for females. Furthermore, except for the special case in which everyone marries, married males on average have a higher income potential than their spouses. This preference mechanism fits well with a literature indicating that men give more weight to physical attractiveness and beauty than do women and that women give more weight to IQ and earnings potential (Davis 1941; Elder 1969; Buss 1989; Buss and Schmitt 2019; Cashdan 1996; Fisman et al. 2006; Hitsch, Hortaçsu, and Ariely 2010; Eastwick et al. 2014; Buunk et al. 2002). It is also consistent with the findings that marital stability and satisfaction tend to be lower when women earn more than their partners (Bertrand, Kamenica, and Pan 2015) and that divorce rates increase when women become promoted (Folke and Rickne 2018).
Indeed, there exists empirical evidence indicating that marital and childbearing aspirations affect women’s human capital investments long before a spouse has been found (Chevalier 2007; Bursztyn, Fujiwara, and Pallais 2017), implying that earnings observed prior to the match systematically underestimate the true earnings capacity for women planning to marry a rich man.
Starting with the ranking based on own prime-age earnings (ages 28–40 years) in the top panels, we note a steep social gradient in the matching probability for men—that is, there is a positive relationship between own earnings rank and the probability of being partnered. For women, there is no such gradient, except at the very bottom. To the contrary, for women in the upper part of the rank distribution, the probability of having been matched by mature age declines with own earnings rank. While a man at the top of the earnings distribution has more than a 90 percent chance of having found a partner, the chance of a man at the bottom is less than 40 percent. By contrast, women have similar chances of finding a partner across the earnings distribution, and except at the extreme bottom, there appears to be a negative relationship between own earnings rank and partnering propensity.
Click over to read the whole thing.
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The Cost of Kids
Another article making the rounds this week was about how Marie Kondo has given up on tidying up after having kids. She says, “I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”
My neighbors across the hall from me in Chicago had a stunning condo. After they had a baby, they invited me over to meet their new one. It looked like the place had exploded. The husband immediately said, “It doesn’t look like a museum anymore, does it?”
I had a kid later in life. I must say, almost all of the costs of having kids that I had imagined in my mind actually turned out to be true. Now, the joys outweigh the costs, but the costs are real. As someone who really likes to have a clean house, for example, the fact that I basically can’t have one isn’t pleasant.
People who delay or choose not to have kids because they think it will interrupt their career, put an end to much of their socializing and lifestyle, cause them to not be able to sleep through the night for a long time, will create a messy house, etc. are not wrong about the implications of having kids. Hence, whatever strategies we want to employ for raising birth rates, they have to acknowledge these real lifestyle (not just financial) costs.
Related in the NYT’s Upshot: How Parenting Today Is Different, and Harder
The Recovery of Family Life
A reader kindly gave me a copy of Quaker writer Elton Trueblood’s 1953 short book The Recovery of Family Life, which shares a title with a more recent volume by Scott Yenor. Trueblood was quite well known in his day. We tend to think of the 1950s as a high point of family life in America. But Trueblood was concerned. From this I think we can deduce that worries about the decline of the family (or manhood, or …) are perennial. We can also conclude that the challenges posed to the family by industrialization and modern ideologies are real and have been recognized for a long time.
Here are some quotes:
The family is the custodian and only true example of the life’s highest known ideal. It is the one institution in which it is possible to say “we” without any loss of individuality. It is each for all and all for each, as never the case in secular society and seldom in religious society. To say “we” and to mean it, is a very great spiritual achievement for the nominative plural is the noblest of the personal pronouns. A family in which each does what he can and each receives what he needs, wholly without financial calculation of earning or merit, represents the highest known ideal, our only true approximation to the Kingdom of God, yet countless humble families, made up of fallible persons, demonstrate this ideal in great measure every day of their lives. This is a foretaste of what the world ought to become. The categorial imperative for every family is this: So act that the fellowship of the family becomes an advance demonstration of the heavenly kingdom.
The father’s task does not come to an end when the child marries or leaves the parental roof. Indeed, the period of early married life is a period is a period of very great need, both of counsel and of money. The idea that parents should support their children until marriage, and then do no more, is as absurd as it is widespread. The young man may need more help during his first year out of college than in he needs in college. If the parents can afford it, it is far better to give funds to help young couples to get on their feet than to leave the money as an inheritance after death. If the young couple needs a car and cannot afford it, the solvent father is wise to use his resources to make the ownership possible. The facilitates earlier marriage and is good for all concerned.
The power of expectancy in the lives of children is something which is almost impossible to exaggerate. It is far more important for a child to grow up in a family in which it is always expected that he will keep his promises than for him to hear a lecture on promise keeping. It is far better to grow up thinking of prayer as a normal and expected part of living than to be told to pray. Herein lies the terrible fallacy of those parents who, having decided that it is a good thing for their boys and girls to get some religious instruction, send them to the church school to get it. The fact that there is no prayer in the home is almost sure to convince the alert child that prayer is for special places and for special times, having little to do with normal and nonecclesiastical living. Perhaps he will think of it as the professional job of religious experts.
Best of the Web
Philly Mag: Philly Is So Desperate for Lifeguards That It’s Recruiting People Who Can’t Swim - the now pervasive inability to find lifeguards to staff pools is an example of the ever growing governance challenges in America.
New Content and Media Mentions
Rod Dreher writes an article riffing of my observation that there are few conservatives in leadership positions in Conservatism, Inc. He shares his own personal story here. If you didn’t see it when it came out, Ad Fontes Journal, a Protestant publication, also tackled this issue back in 2021.
I’m gratified to get mentioned in another post by Joel Carini saying that I’m right about common grace.
I also got a mention from Ben Domenech in the Spectator about Mitch Daniels, who subsequently decided not to run for US Senate.
It’s not new, but I’ve removed the paywall on my review of David Hackett Fischer’s new book African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideals.
New this week:
I wrote about owned space and the gay community on Fire Island (paid subscribers only).
I have a piece about the vibe shift in 2022.
At American Reformer, Robert Hasler writes about being ruled by our devices.
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Part of our purpose is the production of Christian intellectuals, men and women who can combine the love of God with the love of learning. If this is not done in the way of excellence, it will not be done at all. The option provided by the existence of the Christian college should be harder than easier, when compared with its alternatives, for we are in a more ambitious enterprise than our competitors. This, however, is something than we have sometimes failed to recognize, but unless we recognize it, we shall not survive and furthermore, we shall not deserve to survive
- D. Elton Trueblood