By John Hawkins
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
1) The Sexual Revolution: There have always been people who’ve had sex outside of marriage, but there was a time when that was widely considered shameful. Fifty years ago, a book like The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On would have been considered nothing more than obvious common sense. Today, if you write a book like that, you’ll end up on TV facing hosts who can’t believe there’s anyone left who believes in not having sex before marriage. In other words, the promise of easy access to sex used to be a big reason to get married. These days? Fifty nine percent of people polled at MSN Dating said they would have sex within the first three dates and less than 7% said they would wait until marriage.
2) The Inability Of Many Poor Men To Support A Family: There was a time in America where a hard working man with a high school degree and limited skills could still make enough money to support himself, a wife and a child or two. Granted, they might have had to scrape by, but they were able to make it. Unfortunately, as automation and technology have replaced some of those jobs and others have moved overseas to workers in China and India, the economic prospects for many men in this group have plunged. What that means as a practical matter is that a lot of men who would have been married and providing for a family in a previous era are now single and can barely afford to take care of themselves.
3) A “Marrying Up” Gap: Women have always been inclined to “marry up.” In a world where female incomes have dramatically increased and there have been more women than men getting college degrees for the last twenty years, that means many ladies believe they have a much smaller pool of potentially acceptable mates than ever before. The male CEO may be content to marry the pretty maid who wants to take care of him, but a female CEO probably isn’t going to marry a butler.
4) No Fault Divorce: When Ronald Reagan was governor of California, he signed the nation’s first “no fault” divorce bill into law. Later on, Reagan called that act his “greatest regret.” It should have been because it led to those laws, which made divorce much easier to get, spreading across the country. As a result, between 1960 and 1980, the divorce rate in America more than doubled. Happily, the numbers have since stabilized, but they ended up almost twice as high as they were before. The more divorces there are, the less attractive marriage becomes because it increases the risk factor. “No fault” or not, divorce is usually a devastating process for everyone involved and the more likely marriages are to end in divorce, the less likely people will be to want to get married in the first place.
5) Increased Economic Options For Women: There was a time when the surest path to economic security for women was to get married. Today, that’s not necessarily true. Women on the low end of the pay scale can have the government step in to pay many of their bills. Women with college degrees or in demand skills can make just as much as a man if they’re willing to put in the same hours. Those additional economic options make marriage — and staying in a difficult marriage — less attractive to women.