Sunday, November 05, 2017

Marriage may not improve life

Glenn T. Stanton writes in The Federalist:
A consistent and irrefutable mountain of research has shown, reaching back to the 1970s and beyond, that marriage strongly boosts every important measure of well-being for children, women, and men. Pick any measure you can imagine: overall physical and mental health, income, savings, employment, educational success, general life contentment and happiness, sexual satisfaction, even recovery from serious disease, healthy diet and exercise. Married people rate markedly and consistently better in each of these, and so many more, compared to their single, divorced, and cohabiting peers. Thus, marriage is an essential active ingredient in improving one’s overall life prospects, regardless of class, race, or educational status. ...

Marriage generates wealth largely because marriage molds men into producers, providers, and savers. Singleness and cohabiting don’t. Nobel-winning economist George Akerlof, in a prominent lecture more than a decade ago, explained the pro-social and market influence of marriage upon men and fathers: “Married men are more attached to the labor force, they have less substance abuse, they commit less crime, are less likely to become the victims of crime, have better health, and are less accident prone.”

Akerlof explains this is because “men settle down when they get married and if they fail to get married, they fail to settle down.” This is precisely why every insurance company offers lower premiums on health and auto insurance to married men. ...

Working for healthy, well-formed, enduring marriages is one of the most effective ways we can do the work of social justice.
This might be correct, but I doubt it. Correlation is not causation.

Women would rather marry a man who is healthy, successful, rich, and who scores high on all those measures. As long as the man scores high, the women want to stay married to such men also. Men also want to marry women who are healthy and happy. So of course marriage will be correlated with all those things.

There are men who have decided that if they don't have a wife and family to support, they only need to work two days a week. These men will score lower on measures of income, but they also have much higher leisure time and may be leading happier and more satisfying lives.

Saying that a man will become richer by getting married is dubious. There are some careers where a man can focus on a high-status job much better if his wife is taking care of personal matters at home, so he will work harder and get promoted more. But there are probably just as many examples of men who are impoverished by marriage, because the wife spends too much money or she sues him for divorce.

The article mentions declines in marriage rates, but marriage law and incentives have also changed dramatically in the last few decades. It can now be more profitable to avoid marriage, for a lot of different reasons. Any "mountain of research" should address those matters.

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