Taranto in WSJ: Breakdown of Marriage Has Increased Inequality of the Sexes


Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto responds to Paul Krugman's claim that "the sharp decline in marriage rates among less-affluent white Americans, documented by Charles Murray in his new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 is 'mainly about money' as opposed to 'morals.'"

Taranto responds:

Krugman concludes by complaining that conservatives are engaged in an "attempt to divert the national conversation away from soaring inequality." But the decline in low-skilled men's wages and marital prospects isn't the result of big Wall Street bonuses or lavish pay for Ivy League professors. It is a problem not of inequality but of equality--equality between the sexes.

... In 1960, according to the Pew Research Center, 72% of adults without a college education were married. In 2010, that proportion had declined to 47%. Many things changed over that half-century, but one of them is that marriage became a very different economic proposition for women.

Fifty years ago, a two-income household was unusual. In most cases when a woman married, she could expect to be supported financially by her husband. The 21st-century wife is expected to pull her own weight financially even if her husband's earning power hasn't diminished. This is called liberation.

... it is a fiction of economics to suggest that increased female labor-force participation was a new source of production. It was, instead, a reallocation of productive resources from homes to offices. No doubt on balance that has been a tonic for the commercial economy. But it has imposed significant social costs.