Thursday, August 25, 2011

On the benefits of marriage

According to Amanda Hess, recent research suggests that marriage is a better deal for men than for women. But there's a part of this I don't get:
Married men make more money and get more promotions than single guys. They live longer, have less heart disease, drink less, smoke less weed, and experience less stress. Meanwhile, married women have less fulfilling sex lives and less free time than their husbands. They also have smaller paychecks. (They do get to keep smoking the same amount of weed). These factors help explain why women are less into marriage than men are. And they may also contribute to the gendered risk of gaining weight after getting hitched.

Bluntly, marriage "is more beneficial for men than for women," write Ohio State University sociologists Dmitry Tumin and Zhenchao Qian. "Men after marriage do not gain [significant] weight because they enjoy a healthy lifestyle and receive stronger emotional support"—in other words, they've got the time, energy, and help to maintain a steady weight, thanks to the sacrifices of their spouses. Across the aisle, though, "the unsettling effect of a marriage for women may be strong enough to cause large weight gain." [emphasis added]
The explanations in the first paragraph above don't really line up with those in the second. Married men might be healthier than unmarried men simply because their behavior is being monitored. Guys who are comfortable having a beer or two and smoking a joint or two while watching "Braveheart" and eating Pretzel Combos alone in their apartment might be somewhat less inclined to do so if a wife is watching. And if you drink less and smoke less weed, you're probably going to weigh less and generally be healthier. But then comes the claim that married men have the time and energy to maintain a steady weight, time that unmarried men allegedly don't have. I'm not sure about this -- is marriage really a time-saver? Do divorced men end up working out less?

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

A simple hypothesis:

The glue that is most important to holding a marriage together, empirically, are the benefits that a wife receives from a husband. The more fit a man is economically or in a marriage relationship, the more fit he is likely to be in general. He is more desirable to marry and less prone to leave.

The less fit a woman is economically or in the marriage market should she choose to re-enter it, the less fit she is likely to be in general, and less likely she is to leave. The unmarried are disproportionately who are not economically fit enough to attract or keep a wife, and women who are economically fit enough to not want or do not want to keep a husband.

If a husband has more income earning potential and a wife has less income earning potential, economic dependence makes the tie that binds stronger for the wife. A physically fit husband may be worth keeping even if he earns less.

All one has to do to resolve with "marriage is good for men and bad for women paradox" is assume that decisions to marry and decisions to divorce are made in practice mostly by women. Wives also usually have a stronger economic interest in the health of their husbands (the insurable interest life insurance companies demand), than the economic interest of husband's in their wive's health.

Shorter version: unmarried men are unmarried because they are losers; unmarried women are unmarried because they are successful.

The heuristic to explain why women focus on economic support is that they have historically needed it to have and focus on raising children, and that genetic traits and/or gender socialization has been optimized for taht pattern whether or not it makes sense anymore economically.