Very little could have kept me away from a local roller derby double header this weekend except for the sort of thing that did. I attended a splashy wedding and reception at the Minerals Resort in Vernon NJ. Recent prior weddings I attended included ceremonies in a private home living room, a Nevada theme motel, and a parking lot outside a roller derby rink, so a more traditional blowout was a change of pace. I do have to give the young bride credit for nontraditional music: Star Wars, with the Darth Vader March in place of the usual Bridal March. Apparently she is an Empire girl.
The couple are bucking two long-term trends regarding marriage and age. The marriage rate is lower than it ever has been and, for those who do marry at all, the median age of first marriage (29 for men, 27 for women) is higher than it ever has been. There are other notable demographic trends, too. For example, until the 21st century, women with college degrees were the least likely to marry. Now they are the most likely, but not because the marriage rate for this group has gone up. Rather, the rate for everybody else has collapsed. Also, the college-educated tend overwhelmingly to marry the college-educated; since these folks have higher incomes on average than the rest of the population, this tendency perpetuates and exaggerates class differences. The divorce rate, however, is back down to where it was in the late 1960s (see Washington Post chart), apparently because chancier couples are less likely nowadays to wed in the first place.
One factor in this decline of marriage might be that more men are poor prospects than once was true. While the upper 20% of men do very well indeed and still dominate corporate boards and legislatures, this is not the typical male experience. The other 80% are very far from the corporate board office. Median male wages peaked in 1973 in real terms. Since 1980 according to Time, median male wages are down 20%. The male labor participation rate is at an all-time low. The current ratio of employed men to employed women is 91:100. Men also are lagging academically: they make up barely more than a third of this year’s college graduates. At least on practical considerations, staying single is a better bet for many if not most women.
We don’t make our personal (in particular, connubial) decisions based on statistical considerations, however – at least not consciously. We make them one-on-one for (usually) romantic reasons. We are individuals, not medians. Besides, whether the odds are in our favor or not, a lot of us will always beat them.
As for the couple who wed in Vernon, they have no need to concern themselves with odds. Plainly the force is strong with them.