ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The New Math on Marriage

James Lileks fisks this article pretty well, but I thought I'd add some thoughts as well. Read the full Lileks post here (scroll down to Now Then).

On with my fisking of this piece of junk article:

January 16, 2007
51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse
By SAM ROBERTS

For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.

In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.

Golly gee!!! That doesn't sound good. But, gimme some details Old Gray Lady!
Coupled with the fact that in 2005 married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time, the trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways government and employers distribute benefits.

Remember this bit... once we get to the end of the story, you'll understand why this story was given space in the Times.

It's also important to carefully read the title.... this isn't about the % of women that are married, but rather the number of women that are not living with their spouses.
Several factors are driving the statistical shift. At one end of the age spectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners more often and for longer periods. At the other end, women are living longer as widows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage, sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.

Ahh, so all of the old widowers widows in the nursing homes, whose husbands kicked the bucket before their wives (as happens to most men), are counted in this stat.
In addition, marriage rates among black women remain low. Only about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.
Appalling marriage rates in the African-American community, which has significant impacts on their ability to move up to higher income levels, but that's another story.
In a relatively small number of cases, the living arrangement is temporary, because the husbands are working out of town, are in the military or are institutionalized. But while most women eventually marry, the larger trend is unmistakable.

So, the wives of our soldiers in Iraq are counted as "single" by this survey. And those women whose husbands are incarcerated or who are mentally incompetent and in institutions are single, too. And for those whose husbands travel often would be considered single... If your husband is a high-powered exec who travels the world or a traveling salesman, you're "living without a spouse."

I wonder what these women would answer to the question, "Are you married?"
“This is yet another of the inexorable signs that there is no going back to a world where we can assume that marriage is the main institution that organizes people’s lives,” said Prof. Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “Most of these women will marry, or have married. But on average, Americans now spend half their adult lives outside marriage.”

Hmmm.... Council on Contemporary Families. Let's check out some policy positions of this "non-profit." Hmmm.... seems to be a group that is seeking to change the definition of "family" and to undermine the institution. Remember the second excerpt above? It seems that the whole reason that this article was published was to change the way that government classifies families so that benefits can be doled out in a different way.

Back to the story...
Emily Zuzik, a 32-year-old musician and model who lives in the East Village of Manhattan, said she was not surprised by the trend.

“A lot of my friends are divorced or single or living alone,” Ms. Zuzik said. “I know a lot of people in their 30s who have roommates.”

Ms. Zuzik has lived with a boyfriend twice, once in California where the couple registered as domestic partners to qualify for his health insurance plan. “I don’t plan to live with anyone else again until I am married,” she said, “and I may opt to keep a place of my own even then.”

Ahh... the lead example for the NYTimes is a woman model/musician in the East Village of New York. Truly representative of the 117 million American women across the country. I wonder what the marriage rates overall are in Manhattan? Is she the exception for Manhattan or the rule?

And where did I get the 117 million figure? Well, it's right there - in paragraph 21 - of the story! This is the kicker which really blows the story out of the water...
Among the more than 117 million women over the age of 15, according to the marital status category in the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey, 63 million are married. Of those, 3.1 million are legally separated and 2.4 million said their husbands were not living at home for one reason or another.

That brings the number of American women actually living with a spouse to 57.5 million, compared with the 59.9 million who are single or whose husbands were not living at home when the survey was taken in 2005.

Some of those situations, which the census identifies as “spouse absent” and “other,” are temporary, and, of course, even some people who describe themselves as separated eventually reunite with their spouses.

Ok, as Lileks points out, it appears that the study is being performed by Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel - at least if we're really considering 15 year old girls as being of marrying age.

But, let's use their assumptions and do some simple math. 63.1 million married women, age 15 to infinity. 3.1 million are legally separated, so we'll count those... 2.4 million said their husbands were not living at home for one reason or another. I assume that the project manager for my consulting gig, who stays in hotels mon-thurs at the customer location,would be included in that number. And I assume that the spouses of our military who may be deployed in the War On Terror would be counted here... Since these people would consider themselves to be married, but due to circumstances beyond their control, not living together, it's incorrect to include these people.

So, 60 million out of 117 million American women are married - or 51%.

Back to the story:
“Since women continue to outlive men, they have reached the nonmarital tipping point — more nonmarried than married,” Dr. Frey said. “This suggests that most girls growing up today can look forward to spending more of their lives outside of a traditional marriage.”
Ahh, the old betties that I pointed out earlier. I doubt that I would consider widowers as women who are "choosing" to live without a spouse.

Now, for some final items of interest in the story:
[...]
“Marriage kind of aged me because there weren’t options,” Ms. Terris said. “There was only one way to go. Now I have choices. One night I slept on the other side of the bed, and I thought, I like this side.”

She said she was returning to college to get a master’s degree (her former husband “didn’t want me to do that because I was more educated than he was”), had taken photography classes and was auditioning for a play.

“Once you go through something you think will kill you and it doesn’t,” she said, “every day is like a present.”
As Lileks points out, the other side of the bed quote is about the saddest thing I've ever heard.

But, let's get to the final quote... Once you get through something that you think will kill you and it doesn't, it's all gravy after that.

For some reason, I have a feeling that her marriage couldn't exactly be characterized as being a happy one. So, is she one of the 21st Century Women that has decided to strike out on her own because she doesn't need no stinking man? Or is she on her own because she married an asshole who couldn't care less about her personal and emotional development?

One final comment regarding the story. As Lileks points out, it took 4 people to write this article which says something about the efficiency of today's newsrooms.
Ariel Sabar, Brenda Goodman and Maureen Balleza contributed reporting.
But, I did some searching on the other authors listed at the bottom.... And surprise, surprise...

Ariel Sabar is also a prominent writer at that mainstream of publications, Mother Jones.

But hey, the New York Times isn't a liberal rag.

How should this study be performed? How about providing more information about the % of women married by age cohort. In terms of the sociological impact of marriage and the changes that should be made in our public policy regarding marriage, the number of widowers living in nursing & retirement homes has little to do with how the government should treat women in traditional families with children.

So, before we go changing public policy to address the "new reality" of women living without spouses, perhaps we should get a study that is actually honest.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Comments (2)
SicSemperTyrannus said...

Dude, get your gender references straight.
A female who outlives her spouse is a WIDOW.
A male who outlives his spouse is a WIDOWER.

St Wendeler said...

Thanks for the correction...

hey, thought people were supposed to be forgiving when you've just cranked out a 10,000 word fisking of a NYTimes article?

Please forgive me!