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March 5, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I have a suggestion for Brad Wilcox – read your own website. I’ll even help him do that. Here it is (Institute for Family Studies). Better yet, read this piece that was recently posted on the said site (IFS, 2/27/17).

Wilcox of course is the one who, at least three times in the past year, has posted either articles or videos about the wonders of marriage for men and telling them to “Put a Ring on It.” Many who know better than Wilcox about the hazards for men of doing that, including me, rained criticism on his work, and rightly so.

I understand that he’s probably trying to help men make their lives better as he understands it. I don’t doubt his motivation, but, like anyone else, he needs to incorporate important, relevant facts into his thinking. He eagerly cites data showing that married men have more money and are happier than unmarried men, but nowhere addresses the screamingly obvious fact that many of those single men may be emotionally and financially damaged by divorce and the loss of their kids. That is, it was marriage that led to divorce that caused the damage to themselves and their finances.

Unlike other commentators, I also mentioned the blatant sexism in Wilcox’s thinking. Here it is the 21st century and he’s still talking about men as active and women as passive, even in the relations between the sexes. He writes as if the only reason a man isn’t married is that he failed to “Put a Ring on It.”

Maybe Wilcox just hit his intended over the head, grabbed her by the hair and dragged her off to his cave, but the rest of us guys have to receive an affirmative answer to our proposals of marriage in order to actually be married. So where is Wilcox’s exhortation to women to “Put a Ring on It?” Can a woman not ask a man to marry her? Here’s some top-secret information for Wilcox: many do exactly that every day.

Plus, women are the prime movers in divorce. Some 70% of divorce actions are filed by women, and, with all 50 states having no-fault divorce laws, there’s not a thing their husbands can do about it.

But now Wilcox’s own Institute for Family Studies tells us that there are other forces over which men have no control that nevertheless impact whether they can marry or stay or stay that way. To no one’s surprise, it turns out that a man’s prospects for marriage or remaining married are powerfully influenced by his pocketbook.

Now, the IFS article doesn’t mention it, but just last July, Harvard sociologist Alexandra Killewald reported this (Live Science, 7/28/16):

[H]usbands in the more-recently married couples who did not have full-time employment faced a higher risk of divorce than husbands who worked full time, according to the findings.

In marriages since 1975 in which husbands did not have a full-time job for reasons that were not a deliberate choice, such as job loss or only finding part-time work, the average risk for divorce in the next year was 3.3 percent, compared with 2.5 percent in the next year in husbands who were employed full time.

These findings suggest that the male breadwinner role remains a key feature of many marriages, Killewald told Live Science. 

The new IFS article reports on a new study that finds much the same thing albeit in a different way.

groundbreaking new study by David Autor, David Dorn, and Gordon Hanson gives us the best evidence to date for this theory [that men’s earnings affect their marriageability). Trade with China has increased markedly since the 1990s, and especially since 2001 (when China became a member of the World Trade Organization), contributing to the decline of American manufacturing jobs—jobs that pay well and are disproportionately held by men. This sets up a natural experiment: If male job loss causes family breakdown, this effect should be easily visible in the areas most exposed to new competition from China, and it should vary depending on how male- or female-dominated the targeted jobs were. That is exactly what the study found…

A one-point import shock slightly reduced the percentage of women who were married. It also reduced births, but this effect was concentrated among older and married women, meaning that the percentage of children born to single mothers rose. As the authors write, “a decline in male earnings spurs some women to curtail both motherhood and marriage while spurring others to exercise the option of single-headedness (curtailing marriage but not fertility), thus raising teen and out-of-wedlock birth shares.”

The authors were further able to confirm that it’s male earnings that create this effect because the trade shocks varied in how much they targeted male vs. female employment. Shocks to female employment had the opposite effect, increasing fertility and marriage rates.

So Wilcox’s cheery message to men to “Put a Ring on It” ignores the fact that, whether to marry or not simply isn’t up to them alone. And women put a premium on something else men don’t control – the man’s earnings. After all, U.S. trade policy with China wasn’t shaped by the blue collar men whose jobs that policy took, but many a wife divorced them all the same.

If Wilcox wants to preach the virtues of marriage, he needs to do it to both sexes. Come to think of it, since women have at least as much ability to cause a marriage to happen as do men, and are more likely to end one, it looks like they’d be the main targets for his message. Maybe he could try explaining that the female tendency to hypergamy isn’t good for them or for men. If marriage is such an unmixed blessing, surely he should let women in on the secret. Indeed, it seems unfair of him not to.

But somehow I doubt Wilcox will ever say a word to the women, a change in whose behavior would do far more than anything else to re-establish marriage in the United States and diminish the divorce rate. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t thinks so. We’ll see. For now, it’s hard not to conclude that, Wilcox prefers misandry to actually trying to solve a problem he clearly sees as important. If he read his own website, maybe he’d change his mind.

 

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