Welcome June Carbone (Univ Minn) [June Carbone is the inaugural holder of the Robina Chair of Law, Science and Technology at the University of Minnesota Law School], Naomi Cahn (George Washington University, Law) (Twitter) and Host Jennifer M. Silva (Harvard Kennedy School) (author, Coming Up Short)

Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family

While the word “family” may still conjure up an image of a two married parents living with their 2.5 children in the suburbs, Dad heading off to work every morning while Mom takes care of the kids, this image is more myth than reality, a stubborn ideological resistance to seeing the vast transformations that have rocked American family life in recent decades. As June Carbone and Naomi Cahn demonstrate with exceptional rigor, clarity, and elegance, the white picket fences of this mythical family have been swept away by a series of economic, social, and cultural shifts that have altered the “gender bargain” at the core of the traditional family. In place of Leave it to Beaver, our society today has witnessed the widespread acceptance of sex outside of marriage; the emergence of cohabitation as an alternative to marriage; growing rates of divorce and non-marital childbearing; delayed onset of childbearing; multi-partnered fertility (having children with different fathers), and voluntary fatherhood.

That’s not all. Hidden in the statistics about rising rates of divorce and unwed births is a story of inequality. While family forms across the class spectrum were similar in the postwar years, they have been diverging ever since. Divorce rates have fallen dramatically among highly-educated men and women but remain steady among those with lower education. Today, in our two-tiered family system, the middle-class strategy of marriage and childbearing involves investing in women’s education and career opportunities as well as men’s; postponing marriage until the couple is financially stable and emotionally mature; using contraception and abortion (if necessary) to avoid premarital births; and investing substantial money and time in children. But for the working class, where opportunities for economic stability have dwindled and commitment has become risky, pregnancies are much more haphazard and commitments are more fleeting, such that working-class children are much more likely to be born to young, unmarried parents who approach the institution of marriage with wariness and distrust.

What are we to make of this rapid transformation? Carbone and Cahn are not satisfied with either the Right or the Left’s response. For conservatives, these changes in family life represent a crisis in values; for progressives, liberation from the restrictive gender scripts of decades past. Neither of these approaches, however, fully account for the causes nor the consequences of family transformation. Carbone and Cahn argue that we need to think about changes in American family life through the lens of markets – to understand how mate choice is shaped by the supply and demand of attractive partners in an economy that increasingly rewards college and advanced degrees.

Central to the argument is that markets look really different than they used to, which means the terms of bargaining – who wins and who loses – also look really different. Sixty years ago, an era of full employment, high wages, and broadly shared prosperity, a significant number of fully employed, generally male, blue-collar workers were able to earn enough money to get married, buy a house, and raise a family in relative comfort. These stable wages supported the breadwinner/homemaker model in which men took on the responsibility of earning the family’s livelihood and women devoted themselves to domestic and family concerns. At this historical moment, sexual activity and marriage, and marriage and childbearing, were glued together by external legal, religious, and moral norms that restricted birth control and abortion, dealt with premarital pregnancy with shotgun marriage, and limited access to divorce. As women’s lack of access to higher education and family wage jobs made dependence on men unavoidable, marriage was understood as a safety net for sexual behavior as well as the only secure and legitimate way to bring children into the world.

However, as manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, working-class jobs have become harder to find, pay less, and provide fewer benefits. These very foundational changes in the labor market for the working class have seeped into their intimate lives, as men’s falling wages have made the traditional gender bargain harder to sustain. At the same time, women’s increased economic and social independence (whether the legalization of no-fault divorce, contraception, and abortion; or the promotion of educational equality) means that women can be a lot “choosier” about whom, and whether, they marry. For poor women, marriage is no longer worth the risk; they still get pregnant in early adulthood, but they have foregone the shotgun marriage in favor of autonomy from men who have little to offer.

Changes in women’s status have played out very differently at the top, where high-earning men seek out high-earning women, thus compounding the advantage that gets passed down to their kids. And it’s the kids who make the marriage divergence so worrisome. While America prides itself on being the land of opportunity, we are increasingly seeing a nation where kids born to parents in the top third have far more resources – time, energy, money, knowledge – invested in them than kids from the bottom third.

The authors provide a number of promising solutions – from the top-down approach of re-investing in workers to bottom up approaches such as rebuilding communities that support trust and commitment, creating a dialogue about gender expectations, and collectively caring for children from conception through college. They also argue that our legal system needs to put commitment to children at the forefront of its agenda. This commitment should not be defined on the one-sized fits all gender bargains of the past, but instead tailored to address the inequalities built into our economy and the understanding that parenting is about more than money.


[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

147 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes June Carbone and Naomi Cahn, Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking the American Family”

BevW May 17th, 2014 at 1:50 pm

June, Naomi, Jennifer, Welcome back to the Lake.

Jennifer, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Question how do you measure Divorce rates when in old days men would just abandon their families but their wives would count themselves still as married. Also how many women who were not married moved with relatives across the country to escape scandal and just told everyone they were widowed rather than admit they had a child outside of marriage.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 1:57 pm

While the word “family” may still conjure up an image of a two married parents living with their 2.5 children in the suburbs, Dad heading off to work every morning while Mom takes care of the kids,

My Grandfather an immigrant with little English was able to make enough cash at unskilled labor so his wife did not have to work and his 3 kids could go to college the 3 kids worked for school. I never recalled my Dad complaining about college loans when he went to school.
These days dad and mom both work the kids also can work and most kids have thousands of dollars in student loans.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Hello everyone!

dakine01 May 17th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Good afternoon June, Naomi, and Jennifer and welcome back to FDL this afternoon.

June and/or Naomi, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in there but I do have a comment/question.

How does the need for most families to be two-income in order to stay even or get ahead come into play? Is there a generation of blue collar men who will continue to live at home and be cared for by their mothers? What impact (if any) have Child Support Enforcement laws had on the blue-collar/white-collar and educational splits?

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Hello Everyone and thanks so much to Bev for inviting us and Jennifer for hosting this. We are looking forward to this afternoon’s discussion.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Thanks so much for writing such a provocative book! I have a question. Usually when we talk about marriage, we talk about things like communication, desire, trust, commitment. But your analysis starts with more tangible goods like money, status, and power. What is the relationship between these two sides – between the experience of marriage (love, trust, desire) and its markets (power, money, status)?

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

We believe that the need for two incomes has dramatically changed family dynamics.

First, almost all of the qualitative accounts show that men now value their potential spouses’ incomes almost as much as women do, though we think the effect is different. Both sexes view men who don’t earn much as unmarriageable. Men in contrast view a woman’s earnings as a big plus, though there is evidence of discomfort when the woman earns more than the man.

Second, for working class families, if the woman is the primary breadwinner, it’s likely she’s also doing more of the housework. That leads to considerable unhappiness.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Divorce rates have fallen dramatically among highly-educated men and women but remain steady among those with lower education.

Poverty is a factor most couples I read argue more about money than cheating. but what about the rich money is not a factor for them in divorce but could money also be a reason many rich people stay together. Heck how else but with money can we explain how Newt and Rush keep getting married?

dakine01 May 17th, 2014 at 2:08 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 8

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Clicking the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and comment number being replied to and makes it easier for folks to follow the conversation.

Note: some browsers do not like to let the Reply function correctly if it is pressed after a hard page refresh but before the page completes loading

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Welcome June and Naomi, and hi Jennifer. I’m sorry to say I haven’t read your book, but I did read and very much enjoyed Jennifer’s excellent book, Coming Up Short.

I am a bit bothered by the notion that markets are a good way to think about marriage. I agree with Kathleen Geier, who took a course in Human Capital from Gary Becker, that extending the reach of markets into so many areas is a bad idea. I think she calls it “pernicious”. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_05/rip_gary_becker050194.php

Can you explain why markets are a good way to think about marriage?

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Great question Jennifer. We argue that some of the work sex ratios do is to produce reinforcing effects that change expectations.

Men don’t marry women because of their incomes. But we’ve seen the men we describe in the book react this way. They date a women, perhaps a classmate. They think they’re in love. They go out for a while and the woman starts demanding commitment. Sometimes they feel she’s holding them back. They plan to go back to school or they get a job in another city.

Then they meet someone who shares more of their ambitions, who pushes them more in a way they like. They marry her. They don’t marry her because she earns more or has a higher degree than the first woman. They marry her because she makes them feel good about themselves. But it often turns out the second woman does have a better education or higher income or simply greater ambition.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Thanks to everyone for all of the questions. When we talk about marriage markets, we are talking about the process of choosing potential mates. That process depends on a variety of factors, including trying to find mates who can be trusted as well as those who will contribute financially and emotionally.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 2:11 pm
In response to masaccio @ 11

A superb question, masaccio.

And my great appreciation to June and Naomi for spending time with us this evening.


Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

The question about the old days is interesting! From what I have read, marriage rates fell and abandonment rose during the Great Depression. But the birth rate also fell; people were not having kids outside of marriage. I think we could use the Great Depression as another example as a time when marriage markets changed because the gender bargain changed…do you think that works with your analysis, June and Naomi?

Phoenix Woman May 17th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Welcome, Professors Carbone (are you by any chance of the local Carbones?), Cahn, and Silva!

I am so glad that you are here to address this topic.

Real wages in America stopped rising in the mid-1970s because the labor shortage that had been a part of American history since the start no longer existed. Because of this, employers no longer needed to pay ever-higher wages, the core of the American Dream.

To cover for this, wives entered the workforce in greater numbers, which ironically made the labor surplus even greater and gave employers even less incentive to hand out raises. Then the banks started encouraging people to get themselves into debt so they could pretend the American Dream was still alive. This worked all the way until 2007, when everything collapsed into what its defenders euphemistically call “the new normal”.

This is the biggest change in American life in the past half-century, and one of the least discussed. Thank you for discussing it.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Do you have any numbers for divorce rates after the banks collapsed? What about marriage rates after the banks collapsed? Was the number of children born effected by the banking collapse?

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:14 pm
In response to masaccio @ 11

Sure. We wanted to get at the way the economy affects culture. Conservatives like to think culture is separate from things like jobs, ironically. Liberals also think we should be free to organize our lives without thinking about such things. We wanted to show how changes in the economy affect expectations, which in turn affect culture.

So in the book we try to show that if women find that men are unreliable, they invest in themselves and give up on the men. They don’t do this because they think “I’m looking for a deal and if I don’t find it, I go home without buying.” But they do think: there is no point in committing to a man without a job. And the men who have jobs, in communities where the women with jobs outnumber men, find that they can play the field and they do. The women become jaded.

We use stories and statistics and changes over time to describe how this in fact resembles the operation of markets.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:14 pm
In response to masaccio @ 11

Yes, we know that it is uncomfortable to think of marriage as a market, and scholars from all political and philosophical persuasions object to the very idea of treating intimate relationships as something that should ever be the product of calculation or exchange. Yet, most also agree that supply and demand affect “price.” As June noted in an earlier comment, t sex ratio imbalances produce virtuous and vicious cycles that influence expectations, alter behavior, and ultimately transform cultural practices. Sociologists Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord demonstrated in the eighties, in an influential book on sex ratios, Too Many Women? The Sex Ratio Question, that relationships are in fact the product of a market.

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 2:15 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 13

Well, maybe, but what does “market” add to the discussion? The connotations of the word are much broader than your definition, and for me, at least, are unpleasant.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Yes a comparison between now and the Great Depression would be very informative!

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:16 pm

There was a comment earlier about the question of how we know what divorce rates looked like historically and the answer is that we’re not sure. I’ve seen studies of the Depression that suggest that more men, who couldn’t hold jobs, deserted their families, but they didn’t actually divorce.

The decline in fertility is similar to what we’ve seen since the financial crisis.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:18 pm
In response to masaccio @ 20

But if we don’t think about intimacy in terms of markets, then we are left with thinking about it in terms of what – values? emotions? love? It may be nice to think that there are realms of our lives that are not affected by the logic of the market, but class-based divergences in access to intimacy show us that that is a fiction. Isn’t it better to use the market language in some ways, because it allows us to see inequality in access to non-tangible goods like love, intimacy, commitment, desire?

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi — Philip Cohen, who writes the Family Inequality Blog, has done lots of good work on divorce rates and the recession. Here’s one of his papers: http://papers.ccpr.ucla.edu/papers/PWP-MPRC-2012-008/PWP-MPRC-2012-008.pdf. He does find a decrease in divorce rates after 2008, with a rebound in 2011.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:18 pm

When we look at divorce rates, btw, we’ve been looking at the rates post-1990, which give us some sense of the effects of greater inequality. The changes we discuss in the book, with the drop in divorce for the top and the continued increases for everyone else, are very different from the aggregate rates. They level off in the nineties, which is misleading. They also dropped for the country as a whole right after the financial crisis, but have gone back up with the beginning of the recovery.

We emphasis that divorce rates reflect the relative status of men and women, not macroeconomic conditions, though they have some effect.

Peterr May 17th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

I’ve only begun to read the book, but I’m curious (as a pastor with a degree in math and economics along with theology) about how religion — both personal belief systems and corporate institutions (the Roman Catholic church, for instance) — enters into your model.

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Becker wrote this in a chapter for a book:

Two simple principles form the heart of the analysis. The first is that, since marriage is practically always voluntary, either by the persons marrying or their parents, the theory of preferences can be readily applied, and persons marrying (or their parents) can be assumed to expect to raise their utility level above what it would be were they to remain single. The second is that, since many men and women compete as they seek mates, a market in marriages can be presumed to exist. Each person tries to find the best mate, subject to the restrictions imposed by market conditions.

Link here: Pride and Prejudice and the Market in Marriages. Is this what you mean by a market?

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

We aren’t unmoved by intimacy. But think about gender trust. Here’s the question we’re asking: The young women we see in D.C. are skeptical of the men, but our law students typically marry and do so before they have a child. In K.C. most people are more conservative, but the working class we see are more likely to have the child first. Why?

And the evangelical parents I got to know are often relieved when their pregnant daughters don’t marry the fathers.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

More Women are in college than Men these days are they going to college more and delaying motherhood to seek mates who can better take care of them?
If so ok if not then what motivates them to delay motherhood.
What reasoning do poor women use to have children as soon as possible and despite being less able to afford kids they have more kids than the middle class and rich do.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Yes, thank you. It is important to acknowledge that we can use a “market” analogy without “cheapening” marriage and intimacy. People may not be conscious of the fact they are operating in a market, and that’s just fine. We’re looking at macro-level trends.
Jennifer, you’ve done some really important work that looks at how working class people think of their possibilities of marriage, and as you and others have found, economics does play a role in whether people think they will be able to achieve marriage.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:24 pm

What are the odds you think that politicians, business, society will enact some or all of your ideas? What do you predict might happen if most of your ideas are ignored?

Phoenix Woman May 17th, 2014 at 2:24 pm
In response to masaccio @ 20

As an aside more than anything, I’m reminded of one of the chief objections that men like Emerson had to Jane Austen as a novelist: namely, that she focused so much on the economic questions involving marriage (and the impacts of an economically “good” or “bad” marriage), particularly for women. He thought that marriage should be thought in more romantic and spiritual terms.

Of course, Emerson was operating from the perspective of a male who by law (which held true both in England and in most of the US at the time) was entitled to all of the property his wife brought to the marriage. Nice way not to see your own privilege, Waldo.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:25 pm
In response to Peterr @ 26

The role of religion is fascinating and was the subject of our last book. We argued there that the red elites, who tend to be religious, versus blue elites, who tend to be secular set the national debate. We also note that most studies find that people who are religious and both attend the same church are less likely to divorce.

A new study that came out in January that built on our earlier research found, however, that religious communities have higher divorce rates and more partnerships. The people who are not religious are more likely to marry, divorce, remarry and divorce again if they live in a more religious community. The reason is that more religious communities tend to encourage cultural norms where everyone marries at younger ages. In today’s society, that simply produces high divorce rates, less education and more children being raised in complex families. It does not produce greater stability for the group.

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I practiced bankruptcy law for decades, and I agree that finances are a crucial element of intimate relationships, including marriage, and extended families. I don’t see them as destructive, though, unless expectations about money are not met by actual partners.

Not all families will have tons of money. That doesn’t mean they won’t work somehow.

Look at Pride and Prejudice. Is Charlotte Lucas the model participant in your marriage market?

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 2:25 pm
In response to masaccio @ 20

Perhaps, in the Age of the Divine Right on Money, masaccio, in which money is all that matters, “selling” oneself in the marriage “market” is merely the next extension building a “brand” …

Whatever name the authors might choose, their reasoning seems faultless, as regards outcomes. Not only is US culture increasingly about selling oneself, the fundamental money policy at the moment is one of austerity, which suggests that the poor victimized many in the “meet market” are, somehow to blame for the current state of money affairs (and marriages, presumably?).

My question is who should fight the battle to right the injustice here described, it being an affront to reasonable and decent humanity? Should it not be the men and women who earn the least? The already marginalized?

Seriously, how are we to remedy the problem?


William Black May 17th, 2014 at 2:25 pm
In response to masaccio @ 11

Becker has died recently so I will be gentle. His primary problem was not that he thought “markets” had relevance to families but that he so poorly understood women (particularly women who worked outside the home). His premise was that women “specialized” in “household” functions and that specialization enhances efficiency. The argument was not simply wrong — it was incoherent as a matter of the economic principles he purported to be applying. First, “married women’s work” constituted the most generalized, not specialist, melange of “jobs” one can imagine. Second, as women not only worked outside the home and sought higher education but also broke into far more (paid) occupations they vastly increased not only their “specialization” but also their “value added.” Their strategy added enormously to what economists say constitutes “efficiency” — the opposite of what Becker was claiming. It is specialization by women but also specialization among women that surged over the last few decades.

Yes, a purely economic approach to the family is sure to be wrong (and if done by males like Becker who called women who worked outside the home “deviant” — and immediately dropped a disingenuous “explanation” that he only meant the term in its statistical sense. But Becker’s biggest problems came from his combining good old bigotry with truly terrible economics.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:26 pm

What are the different marriage markets and what are the various people men, women, rich, middle class poor shopping for? How does religion or other factors effect various shoppers view as to purchase?

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Hi – Interesting observations. One of the interesting pieces of data we found is that the male:female ratio in college varies by class and by race and by age. So, among the “elite” who enter college immediately after completion of high school, there are about equal proportions of men and women.
We don’t think women are going to college to find mate who will take care of them. Women have realized they have to take care of themselves, and women who have nonmarital children may realize this even more acutely.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:28 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 30

Yes, I have heard many men take themselves out of the marriage market because – in their words – no woman wants to sit at home and watch TV and eat burger king. And that makes them cynical, like they are only valuable if they have a paycheck. One guy decided love was a “hustle.” What do you think are the broader social consequences of working-class men giving up on connection and commitment?

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:29 pm

The reason college women wait is a cohort effect and it’s exacerbated by greater inequality. In Washington D.C., a high percentage of the city (around a quarter of the total) have graduate degrees. The men and women wait until they finish school to settle down. The men don’t commit before then, in part, because they often see it as a distraction from studies or careers. When they “arrive,” they tend to be more eager to settle down and they often want a partner who shares their ambitions.

The women wait, too. The average difference in the age between men and women at marriage is relatively small. They both view the right time to get married as when their lives become a bit more stable.

Working class women are often ready to have children at an earlier age. And birth control is not the same “cultural habit”, that it is for better off women. Whether they marry the man often depends on whether they think he is reliable. The decision to have the child is different.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:31 pm

What do you think are the broader social consequences of working-class men giving up on connection and commitment?

Besides taking marriage advice from Rush Limbaugh:) I assume these guys are his core audience.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Marriage, divorce and fertility rates all fell after the financial crisis. The one exception is that the fertility rates of women with graduate degrees rose, perhaps because the women thought there was no point in waiting for the next promotion — it wasn’t coming soon. Divorce rates rose as soon as the recovery started, but fertility rates remain lower for much of the population.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:32 pm
In response to Peterr @ 26

Religion is a fascinating aspect to all of this. You may have heard about a recent study, “Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates,” in which the researchers sought to figure out why divorce rates would be higher in religious states like Arkansas and Alabama — which boast the second and third highest divorce rates, respectively — but lower in more liberal states like New Jersey and Massachusetts. Divorce rates do seem to vary depending on the frequency of attendance. There are also interesting studies on rates of abstinence among religious and non-religious youth. We dealt with many of these issues in our previous book, Red Families v. Blue Families, and focus in this one on class.

Note there will be a review of the book forthcoming in Christian Century written by Rev. Amy Ziettlow.

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 2:33 pm
In response to William Black @ 36

Well, I agree with you that this picture of women is astonishing; it’s a perfect example of what Geier is talking about, and it doesn’t make any sense in the context of any successful marriage among the people I know, regardless of class and socio-economic status.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:35 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 40

Whether they marry the man often depends on whether they think he is reliable. The decision to have the child is different.

Lots of Women make mistakes about that. What do men look for in marriage and or who to have a child with? Why do Men and Women get it wrong so often. I don’t believe people got it right more about marriage and kids in the old days I think they just did not get a divorce but is there any data on that question?

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 2:36 pm
In response to masaccio @ 34

A news article on a study that is about to be published hit the wires today. It finds a correlation between increased home foreclosures and suicide rates, particularly among the middle-aged.

Similarly, one of the powerful findings that June and Naomi emphasize is that men (statistically) react very badly to being unemployed. They tend to increase substance abuse and to actually do less household work even though they could greatly increase their household contribution. The first effect of a recession is often to reduce divorces because it reduces incomes and job opportunities and makes families much more economically vulnerable. Over time, however, the relatively poor job markets and incomes for the working class put more strains on existing marriages and cause even more men to fall into the unmarriageable category.

ThingsComeUndone May 17th, 2014 at 2:36 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 42

Very interesting I hope your book has these numbers I’m going to put it on my list at the library.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Jennifer — A few issues there. First, let’s hope this is temporary, somewhat dependent on economic conditions. Second, we spend a whole section of the book discussing the legal implications of family structure in the middle of the economy, where women’s nonmarital birth rate has increased dramatically, and where men are less likely to receive joint custody. So, this gives women more control over family formation.

An earlier comment had asked about child support, and we discuss extensively the impact of child support enforcement on men who cannot afford to pay.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:37 pm

As a sociologist, I know to tread carefully when talking about poverty, family structure, and marriage, given the background of the Moynihan report and the “culture of poverty” thesis. Do you think your work gives us a new way to talk about the relationship between economics and family structure and culture?

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:37 pm

One of the things about the fifties, with all of its problems, is that it was a time of relative equality among white men, and it was a particularly good time for blue collar men. We think of Marlon Brando in a Streetcar Named Desire as an emblem of the family in that era. It wasn’t necessarily, though, a good time for women, who married at younger ages than before or after, and who had more children. They often felt trapped. The big difference is that, in that era, working class men and women did not spend a lot of time together. Today, they do and if they don’t get along, they divorce.

Ironically, it the dual career couples who don’t spend time together today. But their conflict levels are way, way down.

Our first priority for strengthening marriage would be to strengthen the available of jobs, first, the stability of jobs, second, and to think about the transition between jobs as critical for family stability. These are good policies and we would see movement on them if the fat cat minority did not so dominate what is considerable feasible in Washington.

Phoenix Woman May 17th, 2014 at 2:38 pm

In other words, white women and men are now running into (or at least seeing openly acknowledged) the same situation black women and men have faced for decades: What happens when the gender traditionally associated with breadwinning has no access to decent-paying work?

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 2:39 pm
In response to William Black @ 46

I’ve seen this myself. I know of several long-term marriages that broke up when the man lost his job or suffered a serious financial setback in his business. I also know of suicides over financial losses.

What I don’t see is why the use of a loaded word like “market” adds to this discussion.

Again, is Charlotte Lucas the role model for women in this brave new market?

Peterr May 17th, 2014 at 2:39 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 43

Did the study merely look at religious protestants vs non-religious folks, or did it someone try to break out religious beliefs into meaningful categories?

For instance, Roman Catholics preach a strict no artificial birth control line (whether the RCs in the pews follow it is another issue), while my own ELCA views birth control as a tool for healthy family planning and thus faithful, not sinful. Some denominations are completely against divorce, while others allow for it. Did the study look at religious beliefs with a nuanced eye, or was it simply religious vs non-religious?

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:40 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 51

Absolutely, yes.

Peterr May 17th, 2014 at 2:40 pm
In response to William Black @ 46

Got a link?

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 2:41 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 32

Jane Austen seems to favor the people who try their best to ignore the market aspects of courtship and marrige, and pounds the rest with satire and irony. That’s true in each of the novels, as best I recall.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

We hope so, but it is terribly tricky. We had a selection from our book in Salon and we noticed that an African-American woman objected that what we were saying about marriage not being a good deal for women paired with unreliable men is something African-American women have known for decades. We agree. Yet, in the first draft of the book, we had readers object that when we acknowledged that point, particularly when we included the voices of black women, we risked sounding racist. We tried to show in the final version how the experiences of African-American women parallel the experiences of working class white women today and we have tried to show that this is the predictable effect of the change in the way men and women match up — with more marriageable men than women at the top and more marriageable women than men elsewhere in society.

Indeed, in one talk we started noting that the same differences describe the differences in the marriage cultures of Athens and Sparta.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:42 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 35

Hmm, as you know, that’s incredibly tough. Of course, we should all be trying to attack the economic inequality that causes these conditions. Both Hillary Clinton and Obama are talking about economic inequality and the middle class, there’s the Piketty phenomenon, but little action.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Yes, we have a whole chapter on Moynihan and what he said that was right. The focus has been on what he said that was wrong, but his efforts to tie unemployment to family structure are incredibly insightful.

eCAHNomics May 17th, 2014 at 2:45 pm
In response to masaccio @ 27

Pride & Prejudice, the novel, came to mind when marriages are referred to as markets. For the upper middle class of Brits 1800s. it was a market. Like a slave market, where women played the slaves’ role. Better dressed, better housed, but put on display (salons instead of outdoor auctions) for inspection & suitability.

Economists throw around the term “market” without explicating what they mean by it. There are many types of markets, and few, if any, resemble the idealized version of many buyers & sellers coming together to thrash out the intersection of supply & demand.

Ditto labor “market.” Workers have no power unless they organize to combat the monopolistic power of employers. This is a “market imperfection” (to use economic jargon in a field of economics that is no longer taught), not a market.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:46 pm
In response to masaccio @ 56

I don’t think many of us are conscious of operating in a relationship market (well, at least I’ll speak for myself on this!). We’re looking at a macro-level on how men and women match up with one another.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 2:47 pm

One issue that hasn’t come up yet is the issue of the kids. You spend a whole chapter discussing how class-based inequality in marriage means that kids born to parents in the top third are getting far more resources than kids in the bottom third. This means that equality of opportunity is threatened. Do you think the issue of kids’ well-being especially in terms of opportunity is one that can unify politicians across the spectrum?

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 2:47 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 43

To amplify Naomi’s important observation: people who attend church a great deal (more than once a week on average) differ statistically on a number of dimensions — and often quite strongly. But most folks who attend these same churches do not attend so regularly, but if they are “fundamentalist” Christians they are much more likely to marry younger — and they have quite high divorce rates. (Actually, people who are powerfully committed to an activity — and that means a very wide range of activities such as tennis, volunteering at a NGO, or blogging tend to vary greatly from folks who lack such a powerful commitment.)

Phoenix Woman May 17th, 2014 at 2:48 pm
In response to masaccio @ 56

But she also pointed out that love or infatuation alone did not a happy relationship make. She had the very rich Darcy save Lydia from disgrace (a disgrace that would have brought down Lydia’s family as well) by essentially bribing Wickham into staying with her, thus giving Lydia what was the closest thing possible for the time that resembled a “happy” ending. (Though how happy either Lydia or Wickham would really be is up for debate.)

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:48 pm
In response to Peterr @ 53

It tried to look at communities in which a higher percentage of the community identified as religious rather than secular, which tended to identify communities in the South or rural areas as more religious. It then showed that if you controlled for other factors, the people in the more religious communities, irrespective of their religion, tended to marry younger and to be more likely to divorce. The study tended to find communities dominated by evangelicals as more religious, but it was not looking as differences between religions. Instead, it was trying to show that communities in which people married younger because of the more general influence of religion, tended to have higher rates of family instability.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:50 pm
In response to Peterr @ 53

Many of the studies do look at the impact by religion in addition to frequency of attendance.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 2:50 pm
In response to masaccio @ 52

I don’t think “market” is inherently more “loaded” than many of the other words used in this salon. Thinking is terms of markets would have told a competent economist that Becker was 180 degrees wrong — which would have been a good thing!

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:51 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 60

One of the fascinating things about the era described in Pride and Prejudice is that a remarkably high percentage of English middle class women did not marry at all. They, too, waited for the right person and that person might not come. This happened in part because the second sons did not have the financial basis for marriage and many, of course, went to the colonies to seek their fortunes so that they could marry.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:52 pm

One hopes so — but look at what has happened to the funding for Head Start and for SNAP/food stamps. We strongly advocate early childhood education as a way of helping to equalize opportunity, even analogizing it to the movement towards public education in the 19th century. The problem is the conservative attitude, exemplified by Charles Murray (whom we discuss extensively in the book) to blame the poor for their own problems.

RevBev May 17th, 2014 at 2:52 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 61

I think that the market aspect is obvious: there are primping and presentation, competition, finance, catching/winning, etc. What is hard to perceive about all that? Different language from always wanting the cheerleader, but much is the same.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Recent foreclosures in the United States have been linked to an increase in suicide rates, according to a recent study.
Researchers from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire found that the foreclosure crisis contributed significantly to the nation’s jump in suicides, independent of other economic factors associated with the Great Recession.
“It seems that foreclosures affect suicide rates in two ways,” Jason Houle, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, said in a statement. “The loss of a home clearly impacts individuals and families, and can arouse feelings of loss, shame, or regret. At the same time, rising foreclosure rates affect entire communities because they’re associated with a number of community level resources and stresses, including an increase in crime, abandoned homes, and a sense of insecurity.”
For the study, researchers analyzed state-level foreclosure and suicide rates from 2005 to 2010. During that period the suicide rate in the United States increased nearly 13 percent, and annual home foreclosures hit a record 2.9 million (in 2010).
Based on their findings, the effects of foreclosures on suicides were strongest among adults 46 to 64 years old, who also experienced the highest increase in suicide rates during the recessionary period.
“Foreclosures are a unique suicide risk among the middle-aged,” Houle said. “Middle-aged adults are more likely to own homes and have a higher risk of home foreclosure. They’re also nearing retirement age, so losing assets at that stage in life is likely to have a profound effect on mental health and well-being.”
Researchers said this is the first study to show a correlation between foreclosure and suicide rates.
The findings will be published in the June issue of American Journal of Public Health.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

No, sadly. I have more hope for jobs.

More optimistically, some Republicans (including, if I remember correctly, “the Arnold,” did support early childhood education.

I suspect that universal preschool, though, is just like health care. It will be seen as an expansion of government and the Koch Brothers will lead the fight against it.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Status — the status that comes from money — has always been an aphrodisiac.

We argue, though, that when men outnumber women, women get to pick. Some want money (and status). Some women do want nice guys. When women get to choose, because the men outnumber the women, men invest in what women want — and in that which gives them greater status among other men.

The same is not true the other way around, at least according to the studies we see.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 2:58 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 64

I do have Pride & Prejudice on the bookshelf next to my computer, although it is a bit dusty! It is fun to think about the mature way in which Elizabeth approaches marriage (just rereading her conversation towards the end with Lady Catherine) v. Lydia’s approach.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Education does seem to be a “battleground”, and interestingly enough, it is being turned over to the tender mercies and control of the very folks who savaged the economy, got bailed out, bought the government, and did away with the rule of law. Oddly enough, it was “policy”, set by Congress which permitted the wholesale off-shoring of this nation’s ability to produce what it needs and, of course, the jobs and employment that ability was actually comprised of …

It is interesting to hope or speculate that the political class might come to care about equality of opportunity for children, when that same political class is what allowed, nay encouraged the financial plight in which a few, well more than a few, if we are honest, now find themselves, Jennifer.

We didn’t end up in “this place” by accident, it was by deliberate design … through “policy” in which the many have no opportunity of consent nor question.

Perhaps, the political process is the very means by which our economy and democracy have been dismantled?


June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 2:59 pm


One of the things we wonder about is the gender effect. There is a new study that shows that the more money a woman makes the less housework a woman does until she reaches the point where she outearns her husband. Then she either cuts back on labor market participation or stays employed and does more housework.

Do you see differences among the younger generation?

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:00 pm
In response to RevBev @ 70

And, of course, some are more conscious of the market aspects than others! Marriage does have a long history of serving to form economic and political alliances.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:02 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 76

The gender performance aspect — people still expect men to be the breadwinner of the family, men don’t like earning less than their spouses — provides another perspective on the operation of marriage markets.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:02 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 75

You are probably right. I wonder, then, if emphasizing the loss of productivity of the bottom third would be more effective rhetoric? For example, if we invested more in the education and training of middle and working classes, would that make our economy more competitive in the future, and thus attract the attention of policy-makers? (And I don’t just mean government backed loans for for-profit colleges…)

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:03 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 75

What we are seeing is that inequality has all kinds of pernicious effects.

First, it makes everyone insecure. Our law schools now spend a lot of money competing with each other, even though one is in DC and one is in Minnesota and we’re not competing for the same students. It’s mindless.

Second, then when the effects of this competition drive up tuition, the politicians want to cut the funding for state schools, complaining, sometimes correctly, that the price of tuition cannot be justified by the outcomes.

Ironically, marriage markets reflect some of this. The greater the male income inequality in a city, the fewer women who are married by age 30.

eCAHNomics May 17th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Isn’t higher ed today a financial trap for people scratching to keep even on the economic ladder, while falling into bankruptcy owing to onerous legislation about paying student loans. USG deliberate policy of impoverishing middle class so its assets can be plundered and its power eroded?

Plus worthless content higher ed, which teaches nothing useful except how to obey “masters”?

Nothing I was “taught” in undergrad or grad school in economics bore resemblance to reality.

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I very much admire the way you dealt with this issue in Coming Up Short. The people are fleshed out enough that we get a sense of the way they think about themselves and their social surroundings. I think we talked about the fact that they behave towards themselves and their prospective partners as if they were the neoliberal fantasy of Homo Economicus. They used economic terms to describe themselves, almost the language of human capital.

It was sad. And this is exactly why I think the idea of market is so pernicious in this context. We cannot live as this kind of neoliberal fantasy.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:06 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 76

One thing I saw was women making sacrifices to stay married – for example, a woman with a college degree gave up her medical secretary job so she could follow her husband when he enlisted in the Army. She had to put his goals in front of hers. Many women I spoke with didn’t think men were worth the sacrifice or risk. And then there were a few longing to go back into the past and be “barefoot and pregnant” because it seemed easier than supporting themselves!

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

While we are big fans of education and training, we think jobs come first. Naomi and I both went to Princeton where Paul Krugman teachings. When I was an undergrad, the full employment economy was bipartisan fiscal policy (especially during election years) and what he says today in the NY Times was mainstream economics.

Indeed, when we go to talk for financial investors (and we are the only Democrats in the room), the analysts all use Keynesian models to predict what is going to happen next. And those models predict that if you spend government money on infrastructure and education and revenue sharing during a recession, you produce more jobs and a faster recovery.

Depending on whether those jobs benefit men more than women, you also tend to see more marriage and more stable marriages.

More education without more jobs doesn’t produce more marriage. And while I agree on productivity, again, I think you would see more employer investment in employees with a tighter job market.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:08 pm
In response to masaccio @ 82

Thanks! I think that people today understand that they really are on their own, with only themselves to rely on and only themselves to blame. And that makes them calculating and unwilling to take risks on others. I think we would have to change the environment if we want to see changes in the types of selves we create.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

That’s a wonderful summary. We talked to a number of women as well who would prefer to spend more time with their children. They feel, though, that they have to stay employed because of the children. This makes them even more disdainful of the men.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 3:10 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 80

Yes, “pernicious” does begin to cover both current reality and likely outcome unless substantial change may be permitted to occur … otherwise, there will be what is referred to as a “tipping point”.

Either we engage in mindful change or the future, everyone’s future, will be grim indeed. Not least because “priorities” will preclude coming to grips with environmental collapse, if perpetual war does not produce a “blowback” that shakes US society (what remains of it) to the very core of basic understanding.

Is this simply a US situation which you and Naomi discuss or is it more international in scope, do you suppose?


William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

A “winner-take-all” society creates perverse incentives for parents and the tiny group of adult elites who can potentially secure the great prize in the business workplace. The parents’ incentives, if they are non-elite and do not have an “off the charts” kid in terms of extreme talent, is to invest less in their kids’ education and to push their kids towards the best paying careers they are capable of regardless of the kids’ interests in such a career.

Elite parents, or non-elites with exceptionally skilled children, have an incentive to hyper-invest in their kids’ education (and all the other activities that elite universities value in the admission decisions). Much of this will be wasteful from a societal perspective — and it will greatly increase inequality.

Things get vastly worse once we are considering the impact of “winner-take-all” on the small group of adults who have some potential to be the winner. A winner-take-all society creates exceptionally powerful incentives for these adults to cheat (and, yes, this pressure begins as they are students). The chances of even elites actually becoming the CEO are inherently tiny if they compete honestly. Their odds of becoming CEO, or home run champion, or Tour de France champion go up dramatically if they cheat via accounting fraud, steroids, or blood doping.

If you combine a winner-take-all payoff with the the three “de’s” — deregulation, desupervision, and de facto decriminalization — you create a grotesque, “criminogenic environment” that will create endemic fraud (in conjunction with the “Gresham’s” dynamic that the CEOs leading the frauds deliberately generate to suborn the supposed “controls” (appraisers, auditors, rating agencies, and attorneys) against fraud.

Phoenix Woman May 17th, 2014 at 3:12 pm
In response to masaccio @ 52

Charlotte Lucas’ situation (and that of the Bennets, now that I think on it) is not a model or an ideal. But unless something happens to revive the American middle classes and solve the problem of income inequality, it is increasingly what women in what used to be the white middle class are likely to settle for in the future.

With the very rich far more insulated from even the moderately rich than was possible in Austen’s time, there are very few billionaire Darcys ready to swoop in and marry women “below their station”, much less go to great lengths to save their women’s families as well.

That’s not an endorsement of Charlotte Lucas’ situation, that’s a simple acknowledgement of reality in a culture where the American Dream, and the American white middle class, died circa 1974 with the end of rising real wages, but where the persons running America have gone to great lengths to conceal that fact.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:13 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 75

Returning to the issue of the right fix…

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:15 pm

A big part of what we argue about trust — whether we are talking about the Moynihan Report, or Murray’s recent book, or Wall St. — is that more equal societies tend to produce more trust.

When we are all looking over each other’s shoulders, we become more suspicious.

We were stunned when we read the first very influential book on gender ratios by Marcia Guttentag and Paul Secord. This work has been subjected to very rigorous cross-cultural analysis.

If you look at couples who cohabit in Philadelphia, or African-Americans in North Dakota, or the French following World War II, you get the same result. When there are fewer women, men’s behavior seems to “improve” from a societal perspective and relationships, marital or non-marital, are happier. When there are fewer men because of war, imprisonment, or chronic unemployment, all relationships become more fragile.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 3:16 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 86

So then, although many men are, apparently, unemployable and expendable, because they’ve not income, it is not perceived that the nature of the economic system itself, being essentially parasitic, if we are honest, bears the brunt of responsibility for the employment situation, but the blame is placed on a victim of the system? Would that be at all correct?

If we are to successfully challenge what is going on, must not that larger truth be told and understood? Simply, as a beginning, a means to begin to understand the larger systemic problems?


Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:16 pm

One of the main solutions you propose is building a community that allows parents to take care of their children. What would that look like?

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:17 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 87

We focus on economic inequality in the US, and our levels are much higher than in most other developed nations. On the other hand, the relationship between family structure and the economy is an issue that other countries care about, and we will be participating in a British conference later this month on the marriage divide.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:17 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 77

Indeed, that was one of the points that Nomi Prins made brilliantly through explaining the “dynastic” marriages among the financial and commercial elites and the role of family and ultra-privileged ties to the allow the most powerful banks in America to establish protective network ties among the leading banks and between those banks and the White House for over 100 years.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:19 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 92

I think that’s right. It’s the bootstrap mentality. Even when I interview young adults today, I hear them tell stories like “my grandfather dug ditches…people today don’t want to work…”

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Oh gosh – -that’s much of the last few chapters of the book!
Prenatal support, early childhood education, health care portability, family-supportive workplaces, paid family and medical leave, more equality in caretaking, more jobs that provide a decent wage . . .

Phoenix Woman May 17th, 2014 at 3:20 pm


If we want future generations to have loving and stable relationships and families, they need to have good and stable financial statuses. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 3:20 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 35

DW, this is the problem. I think we don’t get very far with prescriptions for telling individuals what to do. Everyone agrees that we can’t have decent legislation, whether it’s the ideas of these excellent writers or Thomas Piketty or any of the other ideas we discuss here at the Lake. We don’t have any hope. And look at the outcomes, depression, suicide, divorce, wreckage.

I think the entire course of society has to change away from the neoliberal view of competition for everything in the market, towards one of solidarity among equal citizens. But I have no earthly idea of how that will happen.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:21 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 87

The sex ratio thesis we describe has been tested internationally. The part we are adding that is new is the suggestion that greater inequality tends to affect relationships in predictable ways.

We have seen quite good cross-cultural work that whenever jobs for men disappear, so does marriage and, indeed, non-marital relationships often become less stable. In addition, there are good studies that suggest that less equal societies tend to produce more unemployment and more incarceration.

What we haven’t seen is the other half of our thesis: greater inequality tends to increase male domination at the top and, we argue, therefore greater emphasis on marriage. The latter, though, depends on the men wanting to marry high status women. This is true today in the US because outside of the top 1/10th of one percent, most men want either a partner who has a substantial income or the status that tends to come with those traits. So one of our most striking findings is that the top 5% of women by income are the only group in society whose marriage rates have increased. These women used to be the least likely to marry. No longer.

masaccio May 17th, 2014 at 3:21 pm

And no one is hiring ditch diggers, either.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:22 pm
In response to William Black @ 95

Definitely market-based alliances that treat marriage as continuous with the market itself.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:23 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 92

Yes. We find it amazing that the conservatives who really care about the family recognize that the lack of jobs is a big part of the problem. But they cannot bring themselves to say that the government should do more.

Yet, as I said before, full employment is a political objective and we know how to accomplish it. Romney’s statement that “the government cannot create jobs” is to my mind in the same ballpark with denying climate change.

eCAHNomics May 17th, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Princeton explains much. The Bernanke, who hired Krugman and whom Krugman was defending in 12/08 FDL book salon.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:25 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 92

The book argues precisely your point — that the great need is to fix the economic system that produces not simply increasingly poor economic results but also savages the family. Charles Murray and Tyler Cohen blame the victims and bless the system as purportedly becoming a “hyper-meritocracy.” (See my explanation of why it is actually criminogenic — a “blame the (fraudulent) victor” approach that is consistent with sound economics and criminology. Think of the revolutionary nature of the analytics signaled by title of a the 1993 article by a (in 2001) Nobel Laureate (George Akerlof) and Paul Romer — “Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit.”

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:26 pm

I would also add that there is another model. When we looked around for a society in which women outnumber men, but women still exercise a major degree of political power, we came up with Denmark. The divorce rate is high, but so is social support for parents.

We can easily imagine a model that does not depend so much on marriage. But it requires support for children that is not tied to a two parent model.

When we see a marriage-oriented elite and a non-elite moving away from marriage, what you typically see is stigmatization of the non-elite and that is definitely part of what is happening.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I was wondering where you will want to go next (after you catch your breath from this book :) ? Did this book spark any new questions or uncover any new puzzles?

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:29 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 100

And note that, although the marriage rate for all men has decreased over the past 40 years, it has decreased least for the most high-income men. As the Hamilton Project reports: “For the median male worker (who experienced a decline in earnings of roughly 28 percent), only 64 percent are married today, down from 91 percent 40 years ago. And at the bottom 25th percentile of earnings, where earnings have fallen by 60 percent, half of men are married, compared with 86 percent in 1970.”http://www.hamiltonproject.org/papers/the_marriage_gap_the_impact_of_economic_and_technological_change_on_ma/

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:30 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 104

Since I’m married to one of the co-authors and a great friend of the other — I’ll rat them out. They were both among the early of classes of women admitted to Princeton. So, if Princeton is the problem….!

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

The truly scary thing is what is happening regionally. Our last book showed that family form has become a political marker. Since then, new studies show that the effect holds at the country level.

Red counties have lower average ages of marriage and childbearing, higher fertility, and higher divorce rates. They are poorer to begin with and becoming poorer as a result of policies that disinvest in education, women’s reproductive rights, etc.

Missouri during the time I lived there went from being a borderline state to solidly red. Why? The best and the brightest leave; they tend to be the modernists who are better education and more open to change.

In the meantime, the influence of a few wealthy conservatives increases. It’s sad.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:33 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 103

Yes. My colleagues at UMKC economics are among the top scholars in the world on the means to achieve long-term full employment.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 3:33 pm
In response to masaccio @ 99

Agreed, masaccio.

I consider that it will happen only through understanding and encouragement, of the sort you regularly provide us.

Also, we must seriously consider that the political parties, which are private, not public, entities whose agenda is control of the spoils, may well be the “democratic traditions” by which the current crop of opportunistic neoliberal self-selected elites has come to power.

When the political class says that they “feel” our pain, it is a ruse …
for all that they have been feeling is the plumpness of the wallets of the obscenely rich, and the benefits of the “attention”, meaning bribes, of the lobbyist.


Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Thanks — good question, but yes, indeed, we’re still catching our breaths (and grading exams)! We are intrigued by how women in the middle are managing their family life, and how the law approaches them. We see a move, legally, to impose the elite family model on the middle. It has problems for the elite that are magnified as it is applied to the middle. For example, while joint custody makes sense when men and women have shared custodial responsibilities, it makes much less sense when the woman has been the primary caretaker and breadwinner.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Gender. We were surprised at the power of gender performance. Brad Wilcox, who runs The Marriage Project, said that he agreed with a lot of our sex ratio analysis, but that we needed to say more on gender. We went back and reread his work that states that when women play more traditional roles, and expect less of men, relationships are more stable. We did not agree with Brad’s take on this and he is certainly much more conservative than we are, but we think that there is some truth to his findings that gender role performance continues to influence relationships.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:36 pm
In response to William Black @ 109

Note that my daughters refused to apply!

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:37 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 114

I think that makes a lot of sense, provided you see gender as a (changeable) social construct rather than an essential truth :) As an aside, one working-class woman in Philadelphia recently told me that she didn’t want to marry her kid’s dad because “Weddings make you go into too much debt.” How would you make sense of that response?

RevBev May 17th, 2014 at 3:38 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 113

It seems to me that the “newness” of the women’s movement is still at play in alot of this….not sure how, of course. But until late in the last century women in many states could not even manage their own property and/or make many decisions for purchases. Obviously, it is hard to know what all these changes have effected and what will happen next…the marriage roles are certainly a part of all of that..(sorry to ramble) but hard to predict the future.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:38 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 114

Yes, gender performance seems to explain so much of why the number of women CEOS has barely budged over the past few decades, why the percentage of male caretaking remains stuck, why so many jobs remain gender-segregated, etc

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:40 pm

We also believe that the gender dynamic underlying greater inequality has not been fully explored.

I reread Fukuyama recently. In The End of History and the Last Man, the last man is Nietzsche’s last man and it is deliberately gendered. The will to power is definitely about men.

Interestly, at the same time that Fukuyama wrote the book, he also wrote an article in Foreign Affairs about the role of women in foreign policy, suggesting that when women had more of a say, international relations focused less on aggression and chest thumping.

In looking at inequality, we see policies supported more by men than women, and we see leaders — political, financial and corporate — who are overwhelmingly male pushing those policies.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Our daughter is getting married this summer. We think the young woman who associates marriage with debt is right.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

I have been shocked to see ads that advocate taking out a loan to pay for a wedding. And, if we want to talk about markets, de Beers has been amazingly successful at creating a market for engagement rings (I know Bill has more to say about this!). The average wedding cost in the US is over $25,000, and we seem to have fetishized weddings. If you look at self-help advice columns, there are frequent questions about wedding costs and the appropriate expenditures on gifts. And we were invited to a wedding recently where the couple asked for help paying for the wedding and honeymoon.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:43 pm
In response to RevBev @ 117

We do see studies that suggest that the narcissism quotient, which often identifies the types most likely to be the financial sector bad guys, has risen for women on college campuses.

Women are definitely playing different roles and who knows where women will end up. But most studies show that countries and companies and families where women have a more equal say do better over time.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:45 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 120

Our poor daughter, thrown under the bus by Mom!

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:45 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 121

We find most studies of almost everything these days are meaningless without the class breakdown. My guess is that if the average wedding is $25,000, it includes a number of Chelsea Clintonesque weddings and our daughters’ in the mountains in Colorado, which is much more realistic.

eCAHNomics May 17th, 2014 at 3:45 pm
In response to William Black @ 109

Not an admirer of Poison Ivy League, to put it in polite terms. I am alum of one of the disgusting female ones.

RevBev May 17th, 2014 at 3:46 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 122

Very interesting picture, isn’t that. Thanks. Sort of the bad & the good.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 3:47 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 122

I certainly agree with your second paragraph, June.

I would suggest,however, that far too many women in politics also exhibit, so it seems to me, large increases in that particular quotient, as well.


June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:48 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 127

Can you be in politics without a high measure of narcissism?

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 3:49 pm
In response to William Black @ 123

These Book Salons are always most revealing and enlightening, Bill.

Always a pleasure to “see” you here.


Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:50 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 119

We are sensitive to issues as to whether all women believe this or all men act like that — but gendered expectations are incredibly powerful.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Would you explain how gay marriage is changing the terms of the gender bargain? And affects markets more generally?

BevW May 17th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion. Any last thoughts?

June, Naomi, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, and how inequality is changing marriage.

Jennifer, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information: June’s website. Naomi’s website. Jennifer’s website.

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Ali Abunimah / The Battle for Justice in Palestine; Hosted by Philip Munger.

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:52 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 124

Yes, but as the average price of weddings moves up, that has to affect the image of the ideal wedding. It is fascinating to talk to my parents about what happened at their wedding and how expectations for weddings have changed.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:52 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 121

Yes, and those costs can cause far greater social problem in some countries. The last time the BJP took power in India, demands for dowry began to reappear even for university graduate women. This time around, the BJP has crushed Congress in the elections. Dowry demands reinforce the social pressures that already lead to substantial numbers of gender-based abortions in several Indian states. The “failure” of the bride’s family to fulfill the (illegal) dowry promises it made is also the pretext for the murder of far too many wives in India by their in-laws.

Jennifer M. Silva May 17th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Thank you so much! That was really fun.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 3:53 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 128

Well, perhaps we ought to ask ourselves what type of person is drawn to such “public service”?

From the perspective of the many, to be crass for a moment, what does the cost-benefit analysis look like? Has it been to our larger collective benefit, or should those who want power be kept from it by the rest of us?

The concentration of wealth and of power is always detrimental to democracy.

The notion of “leadership” might also need some revamping, don’t you imagine, June … and not merely in pollyticks …


June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

We are worried that things will get worse.

I spent this week doing the update to my Family Law Text. In the process, I read dozens of custody cases. Women who had a child at 20 to a man they never lived with and often don’t know very well often lose custody if he is willing to fight.

Then in other cases, the women are lying about paternity sometimes because they know the father is someone who will be vindictive.

All of the courts on insisting on shared custody, but when the parents can’t work together, the child becomes a pawn.

A few years ago these fights were about child support and fathers’ rights. Now, we see the courts reimposing the idea that every child needs a father; it more ideological than it was a few years ago. In the worst case, the court got so fed up with the mother, it transferred an 18-month-old with cancer to a father who had never had an overnight with the child.

Naomi Cahn May 17th, 2014 at 3:54 pm
In response to BevW @ 132

Looking at how people match up in terms of markets makes the connection to economic inequality even more clear.

Thanks to Jennifer and to Bev and to June — and to everyone else for this really, really wonderful and thought-provoking discussion.

DWBartoo May 17th, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Superb Book Salon.

My great appreciation to June, Naomi, and Jennifer.

To Bev, as always …

And to those who meet to cuss and discuss …


RevBev May 17th, 2014 at 3:56 pm
In response to Naomi Cahn @ 138

Really informative…thanks for the book and the conversation.

CTuttle May 17th, 2014 at 3:56 pm
In response to William Black @ 109

Aloha, Bill, June, Naomi and Jennifer…! Mahalo for being here at the Lake…!

So Bill, who makes more, you or June…? ;-)

tuezday May 17th, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Great book salon. Thanks everyone.

June Carbone May 17th, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Thanks to everyone for participating. Jennifer, you ask great questions. On gay marriage, it has been fascinating for me to live through the change in Minnesota, with ironic results.

Legally, the ability of same-sex couples to marry has made the law more marriage-focused. Judges who used to grant adoptions to unmarried couples, for example, are now refusing to do so.

The bigger irony is that the reason Minnesota has a Democratic governor and legislature today is because same-sex marriage was on the ballot in 2012.

We do predict that the greater inclusion of gays and lesbians in our society will be transformative in ways we don’t really expect.

Thank, Bev, and to everyone else. Thanks to Bill for his support.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 3:59 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 129

Thanks! Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

William Black May 17th, 2014 at 4:02 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 141

June, makes far more than I do. As I joke when I teach economics: I’ve managed to increase my hours of work and cut my pay by considerably more than half since leaving the government — that’s why you should listen to what I say about economics!

Fyi, about the economics of universities: my primary appointment is in economics with a joint appointment in law. Law professors at UMKC make roughly twice as much as econ professors. So, if my primary/joint appointments were reversed I’d more than double my salary. Of course, that’s why they will not be reversed!

Elliott May 17th, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Thank you all for coming

and BevW, too

Phoenix Woman May 17th, 2014 at 5:44 pm
In response to masaccio @ 99

The professors here agree with you. They just don’t associate the use of the words “markets” and “marriage” with Megan McArdle or neoliberal or conservative jackasses; they are merely trying to describe how the death of the economic part of the American Dream is destroying the relationships that are what holds society together.

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