Feminism, Marriage and Xbox

My apologies to the many good men I know. You're totally marriage material!

[T]here’s a strong case that both sexes would be better off if working-class women demanded more of the men in their lives and working-class men demanded more of themselves

That’s from Ross Douthat’s blog post on marriage.  He’s talking about Matt Yglesias’ response to Charles Murray (frequent subject of Paull et All!) who argued that, in a nutshell, marriage rates and male workforce participation have declined since 1960 and that’s a terrible thing.

Those two trends are probably not a good thing. But Yglesias point out that we’re not all idiots (thanks!): women are remaining single and men are dropping out of the workforce because it makes economic sense to do so.  Since it’s easier to enjoy a leisurely life than it was in 1960, why yolk oneself to a partner-in-breadwinning if sisters are doin’ the breadwinning for themselves.  And why get a full-time job when, if you’re demographically situated, men can do just fine with a semi-decent part-time job and an Xbox.

Some things—college tuition, apartments in Manhattan, health care—have gotten more expensive much faster than average. This means that people who buy a below-average amount of those things are better off than the statistics show. A healthy person living in an unfashionable city with no student loans to pay off can get by on a fairly modest income.

Consider the contrast: As it becomes harder and harder to find a full-time job with benefits, opportunities for advancement, and stability, men are altogether dropping out of the workforce or opting for more part-time opportunities.  And at the same time, women are earning enough money that they choose to support not only themselves, but also their children, without a partner.  Douthat cleanly summarizes our attractive short-term incentives:

[T]he understandable female desire to have children without taking on the burden of husbands who are often basically children themselves, and the understandable male desire not to take a steady but low-paying job when they can work part-time, goof off on the XBox, and still find willing sexual partners

Five points for the women’s equality movement…in a two steps forward one step back kind of way. Because even though it now more feasible and worthwhile to do the opposite, it’s difficult to argue that there aren’t structural, non-immediate benefits to getting married, getting a job, and raising kids with two parents.

It’s admittedly difficult to get a good full-time job right now, especially without a college degree. But male labor force participation rates have been declining since the 50s. Men are not just not finding jobs; they’re increasingly choosing to not look for jobs.  And if the marriage market were the parallel to the job market, women are pretty much doing the same thing.   The solution, then, is to realign incentives from the ground up:

If men want to tempt women back into marriage, [men] will have to use more of their free time to pitch in with housework and child care, building a more egalitarian tomorrow. If employers want to tempt people back into working, they’ll have to offer higher pay or more pleasant jobs.