It’s hardly news that there are more women in the workforce than ever before. Could it possibly be a coincidence that women are now also less likely to marry?
The marriage rate has been in a steady decline since the 1970s. From 1980-2010, the marriage rate among women alone declined from 74 percent to 56 percent. In a recent paper, researcher Na’ama Shenhav, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, looked at the reasons for the trend and found that women’s increasing earnings appear to be responsible for about 20 percent of the decline.
How Women In The Workplace Have Changed The Face Of Marriage
According to Shenhav, other factors include more job opportunities and women’s ability to control their reproductive health, but their actual wage increases over the years are the biggest factor. In fact, for every 10 percent increase in women’s wages relative to men’s, there is a seven percent decline in marriage.
“The equalization of wages across men and women offers a novel explanation for the shift in family structure,” Shenhav writes.
The marriage rate decline is most often seen among women who would have “married lower quality spouses,” meaning women are now being choosier because they can rely on themselves for income. Shenhav finds that for the women who do marry, they are more likely to find a partner with a level of education similar to their own, and one who is the same age or younger. Marriage is less dependent on necessity, more women are marrying for love and the desire to start a family.
Of course, this is all good news for women—making enough money to support ourselves is never bad—but the wage gap does still exist, with men on average earning a 24.1 percent higher base pay than women. If the wage gap continues or widens, it might not be surprising to see marriage rates rise as women look for more financial support.