You can read the first article in this two-part series to learn why marriage remains good for men by clicking here.
In our previous article, we deconstructed the modern myth that marriage is a bad deal for men.
But this myth exists for women as well. Consider this recent op-ed from freelance writer Mary Madigan titled, “I’m never getting married – it’s not good for women but it serves men well.”
“I have no desire to get married, and why would I? It will lower my life expectancy,” Madigan claims, adding,
“I’ve been living with my boyfriend for just over a year, and we are both at that age where people love to ask that question. When will you get married? Has he proposed? Do you want to get married? Never. No. No (emphasis in original).”
Or consider this advice from behavioral scientist Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics: “If you’re a man, you should probably get married,” he says, “If you’re a woman, don’t bother.”
Disregarding the impracticality of his advice (How can men marry if women won’t?), the myth that marriage is bad for women isn’t just believed by a few individuals. It’s an idea that has seeped into our popular culture.
An increasing number of Americans – men and women – do not see marriage and parenthood as important to living a fulfilling life.
According to the Pew Research Center, vastly more Americans view having a job they enjoy (71%) and having close friends (61%) as “extremely or very important” than having children (26%) and being married (23%).
Photo Credit: Pew Research Center
This is tragic, as we’ll show studies have repeatedly found marriage and parenthood provide the greatest happiness dividend to men and women. If individuals want to live a long, happy, and fulfilling life, marriage is the answer.
So how does marriage benefit women?
Let’s find out.
As recounted in Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher’s book The Case for Marriage, wedding rings provide enormous health benefits to women.
- Married women have a 50% lower mortality rate than their nonmarried peers.
- Being unmarried shortens a woman’s life span by more years than would being married and having cancer or living in poverty.
- Happily married women are half a year younger than their chronological age.
- Wives are about 30% more likely to rate their health as “excellent or very good” than same-aged single women; they are 40% less likely to say their health is “only fair or poor.”
- Nine of 10 married women who reach age 48 will reach the age of 65 compared to eight of 10 never-married and divorced women.
- A spouse’s emotional support helps women recover better from illnesses, manage chronic diseases and boosts their immune system making them less likely to catch colds.
- Marriage causes women to reduce their drinking, smoking and drug use.
- Single women are far more likely to experience violence by men than are married women.
- Married women are much less likely than unmarried women to become disabled.
- Elderly married women are much less likely than unmarried elders to enter a nursing home.
Waite and Gallagher cite statisticians Bernard Cohen and I-Sing Lee who state, “Being unmarried is one of the greatest risks that people voluntarily subject themselves to.”
For women, marriage provides great benefits largely due to one factor: more money. Additional income provides more than just economic benefits, it improves women’s health too.
“The economic advantages of marriage seem to play a crucial role in boosting married women’s health,” Waite and Gallagher write. They note:
- Married women have far higher household incomes than single, divorced or widowed women.
- Married women are far more affluent than single women.
- Higher income provides women with better housing, safer neighborhoods, security, and social prestige.
- Marriage provides women with access to private health insurance; 83% of married women have private health insurance compared to just over half of divorced or never-married women.
- White, childless wives earn 4% more than comparable single women; black wives without children earn 10% more than comparable single women.
- The median net worth for a married woman is $65,000 compared to just $35,000 for never married individuals.
“Marriage plays a powerful role in the attainment of wealth,” the authors summarize, adding, “When people marry, they are immediately better off, because they now have a claim on not only their own, but their spouses’ future income.”
When it comes to building wealth or avoiding poverty, a stable marriage may be your most important asset.
As we alluded to earlier, many studies show that married mothers report the highest levels of being “very happy.”
According to the gold-standard General Social Survey, forty percent of married mothers with children report being “very happy” compared to married women without children (25%), single childless women (22%) and unmarried women with children (17%).
Photo Credit: Institute for Family Studies
And according to new research from scholar Sam Peltzman, professor emeritus of economics at the University of Chicago, “Being married is the most important differentiator with a 30-percentage point happy-unhappy gap over the unmarried” compared to other factors like age, race, sex or educational status.
The happiness landslide comes entirely from the married. Low happiness characterizes all types of non-married.
As summarized in The Case for Marriage, both men and women experience great benefits from marriage. But each sex benefits more in different ways. They write,
Both men and women get health and earnings benefits from marriage, but men benefit more in physical health and earnings.
Both men and women are safer, more sexually satisfied, and wealthier, if married, but women benefit more on sexual satisfaction, financial well-being, and protection from domestic violence, and they benefit about equally on emotional well-being. …
In most areas of life, marriage makes both men and women better off.
Contrary the modern myth, marriage remains a great good for women.
Whether young people will understand this fact and choose to get married remains to be seen. So far, unfortunately, they’re trending in the wrong direction.
Focus on the Family is presenting the upcoming two-day Resist the Drift Marriage Conference in Anaheim, CA from November 3-4. Attending couples will receive Bible-based concepts and tools from our trained marriage professionals on how to reconnect and strengthen their marriages. You can learn more about the upcoming conference here.
Also, if your marriage is struggling, Focus on the Family offers Hope Restored Marriage Intensives. Hope Restored is a biblically based, Christian counseling experience for couples facing a crisis moment in their marriage or suffering from years of disconnection and relationship decay. You can find out more about Hope Restored here.
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