Marriage and the Decline of “Economically Attractive Men”

In Faith / Life, Social Issuesby Kirk GilesLeave a Comment

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A recent study from Cornell University concluded that fewer people are getting married because there are less “economically attractive” men available.  The study claims that women desire an average earning potential that is 58% higher than currently unmarried men. 

What should we make of all this?

This is bad – but not why you think.

Seriously.  Who comes up with a term like “economically attractive men”?  Are we turning marriage into a visit to our financial advisor where they help us figure out what relationship will give the best return on investment?  If this is our standard, then we need to help those who are unmarried have a better standard.

There are Financial Realities

I am not trying to downplay the financial realities people will face.  We have two sons who are getting married this year.  In Canada, the average wedding costs around $35,000 (or so I’m told).  Trust me, that’s not what our kids are spending.  The cost of living in many communities is incredibly high, and it can be stressful to figure out how the money is going to work.  Watching our sons try to decide where they will live or work has also been difficult at times.  But they are pulling through it.

Personally, I think the issue of women finding men to marry is much bigger than being “Economically Attractive.”

Here are some other ideas we need to consider:

What is the Value of Marriage? 

The average age of people getting married is consistently rising.  Parents, friends, and society are teaching men and women to get their education, build their career, have some fun – and then get married (maybe). 

We have lost the story of the value of marriage.  Harvard Health Publishing reports “compelling research suggesting that married people enjoy better health than single people.”  Married people tend to:

  • Live longer
  • Have fewer strokes and heart attacks
  • Have a lower chance of becoming depressed
  • Be more likely to survive cancer for a more extended period of time
  • Survive major operations more often

Other studies also show the benefits of marriage.  It’s almost like God knew what He was talking about when He said “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

I know – the Bible teaches there is value in being single (1 Corinthians 7:8).  But don’t let this cause us to lose sight of the large number of Bible verses that talk about the design and benefits of a healthy marriage.

As Christians, should we value education, finances, and careers over marriage?  There is no other human relationship God has said we are to be “one flesh” with other than our spouse.  This seems to put marriage at a higher importance than most of the things we pursue in our current environment.

Preparing Our Boys To Be Men

I have talked with many fathers who have daughters and many other young women who will say:  “we can’t find any good men.”  This is more a statement of the character of the males around than it is the size of their bank account. 

If we are parents of sons, then we have a responsibility to help our sons become men who are independent of us.  We need to develop men who take responsibility for their own lives and understand the kind of positive character traits they need in their life.

We are too often allowing boys to remain as boys.  There needs to be intentional work done to cultivate and call them to be men.  I talk about this at length in my book “The Seasons of Fatherhood.”

Helping Young Men Respect Women

Easy access to casual sex and pornography is not helping.  Men become physically addicted to objectifying women rather than seeing women as fellow image-bearers of God. 

In a recent Promise Keepers Canada podcast, we talked about how casual sex is impacting our brains

If you are a dad, you need to model to your daughter and your sons how a man should respect women.  You set the bar through the way you relate to your wife, your daughter, and other women around you.

I have a nineteen-year-old daughter who refused to date for the longest time.  She always said she was waiting for the right guy to come along.  What she meant was she was looking for someone who would respect her and love her – a man with high character.  I’m convinced part of the reason marriage is on the decline is because young women aren’t finding men who have a deep sense of respect for them.

Final Thought …

The economically attractive men excuse is a smokescreen for the real issues.  There are other potential causes we need to consider as well. For example: why are males falling behind women in education? How does the reality of fatherless boys impact their confidence in finding work?

However, I think the core issue is really boys who don’t know how to relate well and a society that undervalues marriage. Imagine the difference it would make if we could once again help people rediscover the joy of two people becoming one.

These are some of my reflections in response to the “Economically Unattractive Man” study. What are some of your thoughts?

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