According to a new study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, professors of business and public policy at Wharton, marriage and divorce rates in the United States are both at historic lows. Specifically, the number of people getting married, which has been falling for the past 25 years, is at its lowest point in recorded history, while the divorce rate in 2005 reached its lowest level since 1970.
When Stevenson and Wolfers began to analyze the changing market forces behind these new statistics, one thing became clear: The same forces that play a role in marriage and divorce statistics -- namely birth control, partial closing of the gender wage gap, the rising age of first marriages and dramatic changes in home technologies -- also have had a significant impact on businesses and employees.
Forget everything you know about the state of American marriage. These statistics are fairly remarkable. Marriage AND divorce are on a downward trend, but what’s interesting is the why behind it.
First of all, we’re living longer. We’re getting married later. And because of the invention of the Pill, often cited as the Invention of the Century, women have control over when and how long they stay in the workforce.
But what’s also being reversed in this study is the idea that before marriage was an economic arrangement: He earns the dough, you bake the bread. Your complementary skills make it easier to raise children.
Amazingly, what may have changed the landscape of marriage is that Whole Foods on the corner. Or, more specifically, the emergence of labor-saving technologies and the development of the food preparation industries. Before, women needed to be specialists in the home; now, prepared food has made it more advantageous for us to be in the workforce. This really turns the notion of the apron-class 50s housewife on end.
Other interesting trends are that we’re living longer, so you have time to have children and contribute to the labor force. And the authors note that despite media trends to the contrary, women are having kids and going back to work. In fact, an average a woman will now only spend 1.6 years out of the workplace due to familial issues.
Of course, this has also had a ripple effect on the demographics of romance. The study also shows that 60% of people have had an office romance.
The endgame: women get married later, choose when to work and when to have kids. But dipping one’s quill in the company ink is becoming more common than ever.