Women, Marriage and Prosperity

Why Poor Women Have A Harder Time Rejecting Marriage

Over the past several years, many Americans have seen their dreams put on hold. Individuals within our society often struggle just to keep afloat, despite the many things that weigh them down. Unfortunately for women, marriage, or rather, the lack thereof, has become one such weight.

It would be nice if love was the only factor in the modern marriage game, but unfortunately it is not. For women especially, socioeconomic status plays a huge role in whether or not a marriage will occur and why. Let me explain.

Sarah and Mary

Let's consider two women on opposite ends of the income ladder, Mary and Sarah. Mary is a successful lawyer who lives comfortably in a spacious Manhattan condo. Sarah is a single mother of two who works at a fast food restaurant and at a Walmart. Despite their hectic lives, both women fall in love. As her relationship gets more serious, Mary begins to contemplate marriage. She considers whether or not binding herself to a man will restrict her independence, slow her career progression or contribute in some way to a male dominated world. As Sarah contemplates marriage, she thinks of raising her two children on two incomes rather than one. For Sarah, the prospect of marriage could mean not having to worry about going to bed hungry.

Both women are in love, but their relative needs are quite different. The wealthy Mary has the privilege of considering marriage in an abstract way, and wondering how it may affect her future lifestyle. Mary has a lot of power in deciding whether or not to get married. Struggling Sarah on the other hand, sees marriage as a question of love, but also one of opportunity. Sarah's decision on whether to marry has an immediate and tangible affect on her own lifestyle and on that of her children. Effectively, she has less power.

Now of course, Sarah and Mary are completely made up. But their stories parallel the reality of being a woman in America. Without using a value-judgment, the fact remains that married women tend to have brighter economic outcomes than unmarried women. And for women floating around the poverty line, this matters a lot.

Compare the top line to the bottom line: married working woman vs. unmarried working woman. Think back to struggling Sarah and imagine the improvement in her life and her children's lives if she moves from the red line to the green line. Mary, who is already floating above the green line, does not care.

Judgment Free Reality

My goal here is not to claim that poor women should get married or that men should rescue women from their sad lives. These numbers are in many ways representative of the persistent and unfair gaps in pay between men and women. But regardless of how fair or unfair these numbers are, they are reality. Sure we can and should work to make changes here, but for right now, marriage is an important predictor in lifestyle.

When I said judgment free I lied, I do have one judgment before I close. Our society always teaches young girls to want marriage and to hope for it. Girls dream about their wedding days and plan them out for years. But what about young boys? Our society never tells boys that love is important. We teach boys to follow their dreams and make big changes in the world with their careers. For boys, love is taught to be an afterthought. Perhaps this is the real problem.