Marital problems

Readers' Views No 252/253, November 2005
OECD Observer

Although I agree that men and women who are happily married can expect higher average incomes, I believe the idea of what a happy marriage consists of needs to be looked at more closely ("US: A Healthy Marriage", in Roundtable on social affairs, No 248, March 2005).

Yes, the US plan to push marriage and counselling seems to be a good one from the viewpoint of promoting a happy life, but looking at the bigger picture, isn't that trying to promote a utopian world?

Although this idea was not stated in your article, I find the often claimed idea that marriage ends poverty wrong. The idea does not relate well to women with a low socioeconomic status. We are forgetting about the reasons why one might decide not to get married. Single mothers do not choose or want to be poor and their belief is that being married may even bring them lower down.

Many lower-class women fear that a jobless man is going to bring more labour into the household. As Kathryn Edin puts it, "even when a man's labour in the household is taken into account, he causes eight additional hours of work for his spouse" (University of Pennsylvania, 1999).

Women who have had this experience think differently about marriage, work and raising children. A woman who is trying to keep herself afloat will want to bettter herself and establish herself economically before adding someone else to the picture who could deter her from her goal.

You state in your article that "men become more economically responsible when they have a family to support." While this is a nice idea and may happen in a middle to upper-class situation, in a situation of a low status, many men do not have the skills or enthusiasm needed to keep a steady job or bring consistent earnings to the family. In these cases, the relationship can deteriorate. Nowadays, a busy woman cannot afford to keep an unproductive man around, no matter how much she may love him.

I do not want to give the impression that women think little of marriage, this is a common misconception. These women hold a positive view of marriage, but one should put much more emphasis on training men (and women) to keep jobs where they can become more financially stable before promoting the happy marriage idea. A marriage will not last if both sides are not working together equally.

—Lori DuBoisUniversity student, Marshfield, Massachusetts

Ref: Edin, Kathryn (1999), "Why Don't Low-Income Single Mothers Get Married (or Remarried)?"

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©OECD Observer No 252/253, November 2005

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