To date, I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog posting links to various columns and interviews that reflect positively on DATE-ONOMICS. Today I’m going to tackle two articles — one a book review, the other a column — that were critical.
The first one is The New York Times book review of DATE-ONOMICS that ran last Sunday. The reviewer, Kristin Dombek, was not convinced by some of the statistics-based arguments that I made to explain declining marriage rates among the college-educated. That, I can live with that. Obviously not everyone will agree with how I interpret every statistic.
What disappointed me was the false way the NYT portrayed DATE-ONOMICS’ core argument. Consider this from the NYT review: ” ‘Date-Onomics’ is written for people who assume that pairing two by two, male and female, with educated people in or above one’s class, is the endgame, and his book aims to give women the data to win it… That marriage might not always be good for women is not a possibility [Birger] considers.”
Here’s the thing: In DATE-ONOMICS, I state repeatedly that I do not assume every woman is seeking a heterosexual relationship. I also state repeatedly that I do not assume that every heterosexual woman wants to get married or even seeks a monogamous lifestyle. I celebrate the fading-away of “old, cruel taboos” against non-marital sex and women having children out of wedlock. I never endorse heterosexual marriage as a lifestyle choice.
That said, the statistics on marriage are unambiguous: According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 87% of college-educated women in their 40s either are currently married (71%) or have been married at some point (16%). So unless The New York Times believes these women got married against their will or by accident, it is clear that a majority of women are indeed interested in marriage. That does not mean heterosexual marriage is a superior lifestyle choice. But it does mean that a majority of college-educated women being interested in marriage is no assumption; it is a statistical reality.
This is why I reject the NYT’s contention that I am being “conservative and panicked” when I describe the shortage of college-educated men as a demographic time bomb. It’s also why, in the book, I endorse the idea of women opening their hearts and minds to non-college-educated men. Given how many pages I devote to endorsing “mixed-collar marriages,” I do not understand how the NYT could claim I’m assuming people should only marry “educated people in or above one’s class.”
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that one off my chest, I’m going to turn my attention to this column in Mic.com, which takes issue with my conclusion that Santa Clara County, Calif. is the best dating and marriage market in the U.S. for college-educated women. Geographically, Santa Clara County is a good proxy for what we call Silicon Valley. Because Silicon Valley employs so many male engineers and computer programmers, the region now has one-third more single, Millennial, college-grad men than women. Nationally, it’s one-third more women than men.
I’m not the Love Doctor. I cannot explain why some of the young women quoted in the Mic.com story have been striking out with men. What I can point to—and what the Mic.com writer intentionally ignored—is the data on this subject. You can decide for yourself whether these numbers (all from the American Community Survey) prove my point or not:
In Santa Clara County, among college-educated people age 30 to 39, 78% of women are currently married. That compares to 69% for the U.S. as a whole, 58% for Chicago, 56% for Atlanta, 54% for Los Angeles, 48% in Washington DC, 46% in Boston and 41% for Manhattan.
Additionally, 4% of Santa Clara County women in that same age-and-education cohort are now divorced or separated; nationally it’s 9%.