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Are Husbands Going Out of Style?


Way back when, marriage was a necessity for women. They needed a husband to sign for a loan, job security (yes employers looked at marriage status) and, in general, to achieve upward mobility. Now that the union more of an emotional and social connection than an economic partnership, more women eschew holy matrimony in favor of independence. These days, there’s just not as much demand for husbands.

Economist Nancy Folbre, in a New York Times op ed, put a supply-and-demand spin on what she calls a waning need for husbands.

“Some people may dislike application of concepts like supply and demand to the search for potential lifetime partners,” she concedes. “After all, we like to think of ourselves — and our partners — as unique individuals, not as substitutes or next-best choices.”

But the market gives us some interesting perspective on the ever-changing institution of marriage, she continues. 

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“It also helps explain why markets don’t always generate efficient adjustments to new circumstances,” says Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

When the number of women looking for marriage declines, the terms of union move in favor of females. That means they can hold out for a partner with whom to share a bigger piece of joint income and free time. Conversely, men have a greater tendency to give up some decision-making authority and take on more house chores and babysitting.

Though Folbre took a lot of flack in the comments section for her stark economic view of marriage, it’s a given that women’s growing financial independence has led to husbands losing popularity. 

In dual-income marriages, a growing number of wives (40 percent) contribute more to the household. The balance of powers is shifting, albeit very slowly. Part of it, too, is that while women have started earning more, men have started earning less, historian Alice Kessler-Harris of Columbia University in New York says in an interview with USA Today. In straight marriages, guys are losing their once-universal economic appeal.

There’s a long way to go before marriageable guys become totally unfashionable, though. For one thing, there’s still an income disparity between the sexes.

The gender wage-gap – wherein women overall make 77 cent for every dollar a dude makes – has a lot to do with the types of types of careers women choose. Women tend to favor jobs with high social value, but lower pay. Men, on the other hand, pick the much-more profitable fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

As more women shift toward STEM jobs, however, the demand for husbands may plummet even further.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Is it a bad thing that husbands are no longer in as much demand? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

More from PayScale 

Wives Now Earning More Than Their Husbands

5 Career Tips From Powerful Women in Business

(Photo Credit: bigpresh / Flickr)

Jennifer Wadsworth
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