Women just aren’t that into the ‘marriageable male’ anymore

And they’re more likely to have babies without them

(iStock/Lily illustration)

Adapted from a story by The Washington Post’s Danielle Paquette.

The “marriageable male” has steady income. He pays his bills on time and could help support a child, too. He’s the sign of a healthier economy.

Thirty years ago, sociologist William Julius Wilson, who is now a professor at Harvard University, invented the term.

In Wilson’s groundbreaking book, “The Truly Disadvantaged,” Wilson set out to explain why single motherhood was on the rise in predominately black communities. He found that employed women were outnumbering employed men. That imbalance, he concluded, reduced women’s incentive to marry.

Five more studies have supported Wilson’s theory, according to a Brookings Institution report on the economics of eligible bachelors. Declining male employment, coupled with stagnating wages, can explain 27 percent of the drop in matrimony since 1980, the researchers wrote.

Times have changed

“There has been growing acceptance of having children outside of marriage, especially in the white community,” says Seth Sanders, a public policy professor at Duke University. He studies Appalachia’s marital demographics.

A major observation from Isabel Sawhill, author of “Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage”:

The new normal

In the United States, 40 percent of children are born to unmarried women, the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Sixty-two percent of such kids have mothers who lack a college degree.

Academics have long wondered how to encourage marriage, because two parents tend to have more resources than one. A 2015 study from the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies found that states with higher concentrations of married parents also had higher median household incomes and lower rates of child poverty.

Researchers who focus on poor communities have found that women generally prioritize motherhood over marriage.

“Women who don’t want to forgo being a mother will wait to find a reliable, steady partner — someone who can bring stability to the table,” says economist Melissa Kearney. She co-authored a new paper from the University of Maryland that supports Wilson’s 30-year-old theory, too.

Now the rise in non-marital childbearing is even more widespread, and it’s no longer a distinctly urban or minority experience.