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Freakonomists look at marriage

Freakonomists look at marriage

Two items from the Freakonomics, one on co-habitation, the other on fathers.


Cohabitation in the U.S. has Doubled Since the Mid-1990s

Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn use census data from heterosexual couples who (unlike many of their homosexual counterparts) have a choice between getting married, or simply living together unmarried. Fry and Cohn write:

Cohabitation is an increasingly prevalent lifestyle in the United States. The share of 30- to 44-year-olds living as unmarried couples has more than doubled since the mid-1990s. Adults with lower levels of education—without college degrees—are twice as likely to cohabit as those with college degrees.

This report [also] finds that greater economic well-being is associated with cohabitation for adults with college degrees, but not for those without college degrees.

From Baptist Press News there’s a report of a poll conducted by Lifeways Research:

In response to the question, “Will you perform a marriage ceremony for a couple whom you know is living together?” 68 percent of mainline pastors say yes compared with 57 percent of evangelicals. Twenty-four percent of mainline pastors and 34 percent of evangelicals say no.

Lifeways presents this as evidence of as evidence of a clear division between mainline and evangelical clergy, but it’s no surprise which are most conservative and it it is surprising how close the percentages are.

The Divergence of Fatherhood: Feast or Famine

A recent report by Gretchen Livingston and Kim Parker at the Pew Research Center explores the ways that American fatherhood has evolved over the last 50 years, particularly as it relates to the time fathers spend with their children. Since the mid-twentieth century, fatherhood has split in two distinct directions, they say: fathers either spend significantly more time with their kids, or live totally apart from them.

Meanwhile, Marina Adshade blogs Heather Brown’s empirical findings about obesity, wages and marriage:

There is an economic argument for why married men are paid a wage premium for their weight. Being overweight does not disadvantage men in the marriage market in the way that it disadvantages women. In fact, the results of this analysis are that heavy men are just as likely to be married as are other men. Being married though gives men a big advantage in the labor market – married men are paid more in general. That does not explain why the heavier they are the more they are paid. The explanation for that observation is that while being obese may not prevent men from marrying, it does encourage them to work harder to compensate their wives for the fact that they don’t look like the guy in Old Spice ads.

The argument for why there is no wage penalty for unmarried heavy women is different. Being overweight for a woman seriously disadvantages her in the marriage market, and there is plenty of evidence of that in the data. I can think of two reasons why, despite weight-discrimination, heavy women do not experience a wage penalty. The first is that heavy women recognize that they may not marry or have the advantage of living in a dual income household. They therefore invest more in their jobs so that they get closer to that standard of living they might have had they married.

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