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Getting the Marriageable Mate Story Right

So many missed the point of yesterday's Pew study about the shifting economic relationships between men and women. Many TV producers and headline writers depicted men as somehow finding rich women to marry ...diamonds are now a man's best friend. Cute, but wrong.

Today, one person got it right, Michael Gerson writing in the Washington Post. The heart of this issue lies in the tardiness men have exhibited in getting the education they need to compete in today's economy. Men aren't finding rich women to marry -- they're falling behind in earning power.

Even that fact, however, doesn't capture the heart of this issue. What's playing out here is a marriageable mate dilemma: why should a woman marry someone who won't necessarily add to the net worth of the household? Good question, especially when sperm banks are readily available.

Gerson gets at this by visiting Martinsville, Va., where the "man-cession" has disrupted traditional gender roles:

Both genders suffer from unemployment. But this has been called a "mancession" with good reason. Because job losses have been concentrated in manufacturing and construction, about 75 percent have come among men. Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia says, "In recent years, college-educated men have done all right financially, but working-class men have not. They have seen their real wages fall and their rates of unemployment rise. Consequently, working-class men are less attractive to the women in their lives as husbands and providers, and they are less likely to see themselves as capable of being good husbands and providers."

In the long run, Wilcox predicts this will undercut marriage in working-class communities and leave men more rootless and socially disconnected.

Socially disconnected men ... that's the real story. Gerson got it right.

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