More middle-aged men are single ... and OK about it

The latest article in the New York Times' series on gender looks at why marriage rates among men without college degrees are declining

Published August 7, 2006 10:54PM (EDT)

In the fourth article in its fascinating series "The New Gender Divide," the New York Times looks at why marriage rates among men without higher education are declining at a significant clip.

The reasons for the decline vary and include greater economic independence for women, and the increase in the number of couples who live together without getting married. The Times interviewed men who are afraid to commit, men who fear divorce, and one 41-year-old who says he'd love to have a family but he just hasn't met the right woman.

But the single most significant reason these men remain unattached is "because the pool of women in their social circles -- those without college degrees -- has shrunk," according to the Times. "And the dwindling pool of women in this category often look for a mate with more education and hence better financial prospects." As Shenia Rudolph, 42, from the Bronx said succinctly, "Men don't marry because women like myself don't need to rely on them."

Broadsheet reader Sandra Miller notes the difference in tone between the Times article and, say, the widely debunked "a single 40-year-old white woman is more likely to be killed by a terrorist" article that ran in Newsweek in 1986. "The tone of the [New York Times] article was distinctly different from pieces in days past featuring lower rates of marriage by women -- no terrorist statistics were trotted out. No whiff of desperation. The guys were portrayed as keeping busy, self-actualized, and more or less happy and content with their lives while hoping for the right gal to someday come along," writes Miller. "No mention of women abandoning these men for younger, more beautiful specimens. No interviews by women that concretize the notion that these men have no hope to marry because life has passed them by, and they were too busy focused on the wrong things while they were most marriageable and now they only have the booby prize of lifelong, Cliff Claven bachelorhood to look forward to."

Anyone else notice that?

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

MORE FROM Lori Leibovich

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