In this month’s lengthy Atlantic cover story, titled “All the Single Ladies,” Kate Bolick explores why more and more American women are spending more – if not all – of their adult lives unmarried. Here, the most interesting takeaways:
- Women don’t need husbands the way they used to
The median age at which Americans get married for the first time is 28 for men and 26 for women, writes Bolick. That’s up from 23 for men and 20 for women 50 years ago. And in the past 15 years, the percentage of people who are married has dropped from 29 percent to 22 percent. Why? For one reason, women “no longer need husbands to have children,” Bolick writes. Forty percent of children are born to single mothers. Adoption and in vitro fertilization are changing the stigma of single motherhood, too. Women have also gained on men in terms of education and employment, making them increasingly less reliant on a husband for financial support.
- A lot of men are deadbeats or players
In societies in which women outnumber men, posits one popular theory, men become promiscuous and commitment-averse. While the numbers of men and women are essentially equal in the U.S., “marriageable” women outnumber “marriageable” men and, as such, those men seek out multiple partners and are unlikely to settle down. “We’re contending with a new ‘dating gap,’” Bolick says, “where marriage-minded women are increasingly confronted with either deadbeats or players.” Perhaps, she says, women are better off staying single than settling for men who aren’t “marriageable.”
- Open marriages are more common
Unconventional arrangements — ranging from the rise of gay marriage to polygamy — are causing some heterosexuals to question their own conventions, embracing open marriages or turning a blind eye to cheating, Bolick asserts. The “two hallmarks of contemporary marriage” are evolving: Monogamy and candor. This may not be so surprising, considering that societal change is typically the greatest during periods of “extraordinary economic flux,” such as the one we’re in.