Marriage: The Freakonomics Version

24 Feb

marry-all-wedding-ecard-someecardsMarriage has been the topic of the Freakonomics podcast for the last two weeks. And of course I was all over it. There were a couple of things I found interesting about the episodes.

In the first podcast (Why Marry? Part 1), host Stephen Dubner and guest economist Justin Wolfers tackled the question of whether or not marriage makes one better. There is definitely this idea that marriage is better for all involved, the coupled and its potential offspring. Here’s the answer:

Most people get this wrong. It turns out at any point in time the people who are married are happier than the people who are not married. People then infer from that, Oh boy, marriage must make you happy. But the alternative explanation is reverse causation — that if you’re grumpy who the hell wants to marry you? So this is selection effects. I think this is really important, because selection effects, that people who are married are selected, they’re not a random group of the population, are something that economists and statisticians talk about all the time. And so it seems to be completely obvious that the grumpy, the hard to employ, the selfish would all be far less likely to be marriageable and therefore be less likely to be married than others. And we actually say that married people look better on almost all measures, life expectancy as well, they’re healthier, than non-married people. But I think that’s because spouses are looking for happy, healthy, functional people.  (Justin Wolfers)

So there you have it — marriage does not, in fact, make one better. I think this needs to be shouted from the highest mountaintop.

In the second podcast, Why Marry? Part 2, Stephen Dubner interviewed Howard University Professor Ivory Toldson on marriage in the black community. Only 36% of all black men in America are married; compared to 59% of Asian men,  54% of white men, and 45% of Hispanic men. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you wouldn’t know that there’s this notion that black women are having a difficult time finding marriageable black men.  I agree. The podcast segment included 33 year-old Nina Bruce (a black woman) who is actively dating in the DMV with the intent of finding a husband. According to Bruce, it’s difficult to find a black partner in the same “playing field” meaning “someone who A wants to get married B is able to or be in a healthy relationship whether it be financially, physically, or mentally. Even spiritually.” However, according to Toldson the ratio between marriageable black men and women isn’t as drastic as one might think. He looked at cities Washington, DC and Atlanta as examples.

According to Toldson,

So the true ratio in both of these cities is 1.3 to one. Then of course if you get in to the educated population you’ll see the ratio get even more skewed, and it goes up to about 1.8 to one in Atlanta and 1.5 to one in Washington D.C. If you’re a young black woman and you want an educated black man, these corrected ratios may give you some comfort, but in real time it still can be a challenge. You know, I’m not trying to put my brothers out there, but I know that some successful black men who are exposed to information like there’s a 15 to one ratio in the city that you live in, they become less committal in relationships and more restrictive in what they believe they deserve. This is certainly not true of all, but if we’re just looking at the entire landscape and how a lot of this information could be misused, that there is a tendency for some men to exploit the data.

So black girls, there’s some hope.

I wholeheartedly agree with Toldson’s assessment of successful black men becoming less likely to commit and more rigid in their expectations of a potential partner. Some black men feel that they’re the shiz-nyee and come with a litany of requirements a partner must meet, down to a woman’s footwear.  I have an acquaintance who is 38, single, childless, and makes six figures. This guy hasn’t particularly aged well and has the emotional sensitivity of a cockroach but he thinks he deserves the best of the best, creme de la creme. Negro please.  Don’t overplay your hand brothers.

And sisters, remember you can always date out. I say the more options the better. 🙂



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