Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Marriage Market

In the May 2010 issue of First Things, there is an article (available on-line to subscribers only, for now) by Timothy Reichert that attempts to look at the effects of contraceptive technologies in socio-economic terms. Reichert argues that what was at one time a single mating market with roughly equal participation by men and women has since divided into two separate markets. The sex market is dominated by an over-representation of men and scarcity of women, whereas the opposite condition holds true in the marriage market. The relative over-abundance of women in the marriage market means that women have a disadvantageous bargaining position and therefore end up with lower quality marriages and spouses than in the past, when only one market existed. In other words, they are forced to settle for what they can get. From this, he concludes that contraception is bad for women.

I thoroughly agree that contraception is bad for women and for society, but Reichert’s socio-economic argument doesn’t come anywhere close to proving it. I would offer the counter argument that men who choose to vacate the marriage market in favor of the sex market would not have been the most stable husbands and fathers, and therefore removing them from the marriage market is a good thing. While the total population of men in the marriage market might be smaller, a larger proportion of that population would be fit for fatherhood. Further, that means that a man seeking marriage would have an improved bargaining position and, therefore, would not need to settle for a wife of lower quality. This is a good thing for the man who wants to raise a family.

While my wife might have had to settle for a husband who was only worth 50 cents to her dollar, my one dollar got me a two dollar wife!

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