Tuesday, November 28, 2023

It’s Tuesday, November 28, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Let This Sink In: New Research Shows the More Money a Woman Makes the Less Likely She is to Get Married and Have Children

Let this data point sink in with you. It comes down to this, the more wealthy a man is, the more likely he is to be married. The more wealthy a woman is, the less likely she is to be married. Accordingly, the more wealthy a man is, the more likely he is to be a father. The more wealthy a woman is, the less likely she is to be a mother.

Now, for Christians, there could hardly be a more significant set of statistics than these because we understand that the family is the center of human civilization. Marriage and the family are the foundations of the entire culture. And what we are looking at here is a development that is entirely new in human history. Nothing like this has happened in the past. Nothing like this could have happened in the past.

Now, on the one hand, you see the great divide in our country made very clear by how this data is interpreted. People looking at this, and by the way, the census data is overwhelming in terms of the amount of information. You look at this and you recognize there’s some people who say, “Look, this represents the liberation of women from the domestic expectation. The expectation that they will be wives and mothers. They are now liberated.” The Christians have to look at this and say, “Well, but this could well doom human civilization itself. This is a very alarming pattern.”

The more wealthy a man is, the more likely he is to be a father, the more wealthy a woman is, the less likely she is to be a mother. Now, how has this come about and why are we talking about it? Well, we’re talking about it because for Christians, this has to be a matter of tremendous, nearly incalculable importance. We’re talking about something as basic as marriage, as basic as the family, as basic as the picture of human life. But we also are talking about it because the data is now coming in and it is pretty overwhelming.

You look at it and the numbers tell us that we have a fall off in marriage and a fall off in the birth rate in this country, both of which are very significant. And we have entire sectors of the society that are effectively giving up on marriage. They’re just not marrying. But there’s something else that’s counterintuitive, and that is the fact that where you look at stability in this country, you look at marital stability, family stability, you’re actually looking these days at greater stability than had been the case in the past.

So when it comes to marriage and children, we are increasingly looking at a world of the haves and the have-nots, and those are the consequence of moral decisions that have been made. They’re also the consequence of vast changes taking place in American society. Now, first of all, let’s just try to look objectively at the vast changes we’re talking about in American society. For one thing, you have the advent of the modern industrial age, which is given over to now a post-industrial situation.

But the bottom line in all of this is that our economy has encouraged more and more people to be in the workplace, both men and women, and frankly responds punitively to those who are not in the workplace. So that means that the stereotypical stay at home mom is now not only an exception in many cultural contexts, but quite frankly is looked at by some economists as a non-productive economic unit.

There is economic value lost when a mom stays home with her children. That is the claim that is made by the pure market economists. And furthermore, this is a situation in which some of the champions of capitalism are also the champions of disruption in society to the extent that they want to see every single able-bodied adult fully employed in the society functioning as a maximally productive economic unit. Who’s the loser in that? Well, we’re all the loser in that from a Christian perspective because we’re losing the conception of marriage, we’re losing the conception of the family and we are losing children.

I don’t mean that hypothetically. You look at the birth rate when you have a husband and wife and they’re going to have children increasingly, the number of those children, if indeed they’re going to be children at all. It’s calibrated by career decisions by how much time and margin is left over when both mom and dad are fully deployed in the vocational context.

So we are looking at massive changes, and in one sense, no one decided this. That’s the case when it comes to so many of the big societal realities and challenges that we face. This is the result cumulatively of millions of decisions, tens or even hundreds of millions of decisions made by different human beings about their future, their expectation, their education, their potential for work, what they’re going to do with their lives, whether they’re going to marry, whether they’re going to become parents.

This is not just like a switch that is flipped at the societal level, and yet at the same time, there are social policies that are put in place. There are economic realities that begin to come into place. Not too long ago in The Briefing and answer to a question I mentioned, the evaporation or disappearance of the family wage in the United States. Historically, our economy had been based on the understanding, and this was especially true in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, that employers should pay the men employed in the workplace who were understood to be expected also to be husbands and fathers should pay those men a living wage enough for a family to live on.

And that’s what produced the great blue collar revolution in America. That’s what produced the suburbs outside of America’s industrial cities. That’s what produced the teaming schools, the little league teams and all the rest. It was a family wage. Now, that family wage was disrupted by many things. In one sense, it was disrupted by the Great Depression in which so many jobs were lost. It was also disrupted by World War II. Why World War II? Well, World War II required men to go into battle and to be mobilized for war, and yet at the same time, America had to have a vast war machine in terms of industry and public services back in the United States, and that meant that many women went into the workforce.

The expectation of those who were running the society is that that would be a temporary thing. But with the vast expansion in the American economy in the post-war period, it turned out not to be as temporary as many had expected. But something else happened about the same time, and that was that there was basically a move away from a family wage because the family wage was based upon the conception, the social argument, which was also a political reality that the vast factories with all their employees, those companies were to pay the men working in those positions enough to support a family.

But if you have mom and dad in the workforce, then the companies were in the position of saying, “See, we don’t have to pay a family wage.” We can actually reduce the investment in every one of these employees because it is not the expectation that these employees will be the husbands, the fathers who are the head of families. Now, they are simply employees, increasingly men and women, and thus the family recedes into background. That’s a big development in this country that no one actually planned in one sense, but it’s had devastating consequences on the family.

The family is now the afterthought. Instead of companies paying a family wage, you have employees who might be… The expectation would be of many both mom and dad, and you hope that together they make enough to support a family. But what about that family? Who’s taking care of them? Who’s taking care of the children? All the rest of them? Well, that turns out not to be a high social value.

So that’s one of the big changes that’s taken place. The vast entry of women into the workforce. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, at this point, I think it’s just fair to say from a biblical perspective, it’s a hugely determinative thing. It’s a thing that came with a great deal of impact, and much of that impact has been negative. It’s also disproportionate in terms of the vast changes that have come into the workplace because the job market has changed a lot too whereas in the mid 20th century, it was manufacturing jobs. It was the blue collar factory jobs of big industries. That was the model for employment, particularly for men.

Those positions have been in decline in the United States now for four or five decades leading to male unemployment and underemployment. Meanwhile, the vast surge in jobs has come in primarily three or four areas, the vast expansion of the government and also higher education and public education in America. All of that, by the way, basically requires college degrees or the equivalent generally actual college degrees. Then you have a vast expansion in the helping professions.

These are often referred to as the softer areas in the economy and they have traditionally been overweighted in terms of female employment. Just to take for instance, the example of the profession of nursing. Nursing was so universally women that you had residential nursing schools at the midpoint of the 20th century that were simply all women producing women who would be nurses. But now nursing, which is vastly expanded both in terms of its professional definition and in terms of the number of nurses needed in an increasingly aged society, well, now you have a lot of men going into nursing.

But you are looking at the fact that that’s a transition that just doesn’t come with a snap of fingers. It is a transition that takes a good deal of time. And furthermore, there are a lot of men who probably would not make good nurses, simply because the helping aspect is something that seems, at least stereotypically to come more naturally to women than to men.

Now, there’s some who would say, “Well, that’s basically just a learned behavior, so there are men who can learn to do that.” But it’s also true that we have to hope that those who will go into the so-called helping professions or those who actually want to help. And so we are looking at vast changes. I mentioned what happened in the loss of industrial jobs, the rise of the helping professions, and then also the rise of the knowledge class or the jobs that require a college education. And that leads to another situation where you had women entering into the college and university experience, and was that a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, I think it would be fundamentally wrong to tell young women that they should not go to college. And furthermore, there has been a great enrichment of higher education by the presidents of so many women, not only when it comes to the student body, but also to the faculty. But it’s come with a far larger impact and disproportionate impact than many people would’ve expected because now you don’t have parity in terms of young men and young women in the entering classes of colleges. You have a disparity, and the disparity comes down to the fact that there are far more young women, say at age 18, who are both ready and eager to go to college, and there are young men of the same age.

So you have an imbalance, something like 60-40 on the average college campus. That is a great shock. Anyone coming to the American college campus in 2023 who knew that college campus in 1963 would say, “This is a dramatically different space.” And that comes with social and moral consequences as well. But we need to get back to marriage. Why this stark difference in terms of marriage?

Part II

Massive Social Shifts and Massive Consequences: Marriage and Family Patterns Reshaped

But we need to get back to marriage. Why this stark difference in terms of marriage? And I stated the issue as carefully as I could. The more wealthy a man is, the more likely he’s to be married and the more likely he is to have children, that is to be a father.

The more wealthy a woman is, the less likely on both scores, both to be married and to be a mother. Why would that be so? Well, that gets to something that is either just evidence of prejudice or is something more deeply grain in creation order. You can tell where I’m going. I believe it reflects creation order, and this is a disparity in what men and women look for in marriage.

It turns out that that disparity is what is showing up in these statistics. So what’s the disparity? Well, it comes down to something like this. Men are often quite ready to marry women who do not bring huge economic benefits to the marriage. In other words, they are willing to marry someone not on the basis of their income or expected income, but on the basis of other factors. And those factors for men can be many, many things, but the fact is that all those things add up to the fact that men tend to marry women without much regard for their socioeconomic status. But the same thing is not true when a woman is looking at potential husbands.

In that case, you have the process known as assortative grouping or assortative dating in this case or pairing in which a woman considering a husband does not want to marry someone of lesser socioeconomic status or of lesser wealth. That creates a problem because there’s an imbalance between the number of women who might be looking for husbands and the number of husbands who might be economically, educationally and socially qualified to be their husbands indeed because you are looking at a different set of expectations.

Conn Carroll writing for the Washington Examiner looked at a major academic project with this kind of data based upon data from the Census Bureau in 2014, and what this researcher found was that, “At least for men, the more money a man had, the more likely he was to be married. Men at the bottom of the income scale had less than a 40% chance of ever being married. Men at the top of the income scale were almost guaranteed indeed 100% to be married at least once in their lifetimes.” That’s a remarkable statistic just in and of itself because it actually points to the social and moral, cultural and marital consequences of men who are in the lower ranks of the educational and income categories.

It turns out that is a part of the recession in marriage in the United States when it comes to many men. So again, the more wealthy a man is, the men at the top of the income scale, almost 100% guaranteed to be married at least once in their lifetimes. But, “The opposite was true of women, although the difference was not as stark for women at the lowest end of the income scale. Almost 80% of them had been married, ever been married. But for women at the top of the income scale, just under 70% had ever been married.”

What about children? “The more money a man makes, the more likely he is to have children and the more children he is likely to have. For women, the opposite is true. The more money they make, the less likely they are to have children and the fewer children they are likely to have.”

Now, just let that sink in again. Again, it is absolutely stunning. It also is reflected in what you see. It’s reflected in the recession of marriage in our culture. It’s also reflected in a falling birth rate. And so there is an actual undeniable tie between the entry of so many women into the workplace and the falloff and the birth rate.

Now, there are feminists and others who would say, “Well, that’s just an unalloyed good thing. That’s a good thing. A lower birth rate, that’s a good thing.” There’ve been many people, particularly on the left, who’ve been trying to work for a lower birth rate for a very long time. Well, now they have what they’ve been demanding. When it comes to the recession in marriage, there are other people who say that that’s a good thing.

Betty Friedan, second wave feminist back in the 1960s said that, “The home is a domestic concentration camp for women. Women are now liberated from the concentration camp of the home that go into the workplace where supposedly they are fully liberated.” The problem is, of course, that both men and women at opposite extremes, by the way of the income scale, are liberated from marriage and parenthood. And that is a very dangerous thing because just to think about marriage and parenthood, it’s not just the impact that marriage and parenthood have on others, it’s the effect that marriage and parenthood has on specifically a man, and has on a woman, has on a father, and has on a mother, has on a husband, and has on a wife.

That is a life changing experience, and there are increasing numbers of Americans who are not experiencing that life-changing experience of marriage or of parenthood. But this also comes with a spiraling effect because when you have a fall in the birth rate, you have a fall in future employees. A fall in future employees is a real danger to the economy. In order to compensate for the loss of those who were not born, you have to have more people who are living and particularly who are now adults moving into the workforce.

So you can see how this works. The lower the birth rate, the more all people, including both men and women are encouraged to get into the workforce. The more they’re in the workforce, the fewer babies you have. Thus, you have Japan. It’s important for Christians to understand this is a creation order issue because marriage and the family are at the very center of that creation order, and thus at the center of what God tells us is the very purpose of creation and making human beings and his image making us male and female and giving us together the institution of marriage and the responsibility of dominion, of exercising authority in this culture, in this creation, in this civilization.

And thus, we have the entire picture of parenthood and children. And by the way, where you have a society that has fewer and fewer children, you have a society that marginalizes children. And thus you have in some areas, not only elsewhere in the world, but some places in the United States, you have fewer children. You have an increased number of older people, and the social services tilt away from children and towards older people. That is a very critical shift, and it just underlines a basic social fact, which is you get more of what you invest in.

Right now, we’re investing less and less in children in this sense, and it’s going to show. It’s going to show for a long, long time. Just look at China with its devastating one child only policy. You have so many young men who are never going to get married, and that leads to all kinds of social problems. But it also just leads to the fact that you have a smaller group of children in the next generation to even consider getting married in the first place. There’s that downward spiral once again.

I have to tell you as a Christian that even talking about these issues is a risk, but talk about them we must. And frankly, we have to think about them biblically. We have to talk about them biblically. You start talking about these things and people will immediately say, “You’re saying women should leave the workforce.” That is not what I said. But you have to look at the fact that there are social costs to everything. There are vast social costs to a society where boys do not grow up to be productive men.

There are vast social costs to societies where men are not raised with the expectation that they will have to achieve social stability and personal stability as husbands and as fathers. You have a great weakening of society. We are experiencing that right now, an epidemic of fatherlessness, which is particularly devastating to boys in terms of behavior, but is also very devastating to girls in terms of self-esteem and assurance. But there are also social consequences to telling young women that their main concern should be their contribution to a capitalist economy.

Their main concern should be developing their professional and vocational lives at the expense of everything else. You look at that and there are consequences to those kinds of messages being sent. This means that Christian seeking to understand all these things from a biblical worldview have to understand we are facing significant cultural headwinds. We’re facing considerable difficulty even talking about these issues, but we’re also looking at a civilizational crisis and you just have to say, “Well, someone has got to start talking about these things.” And if the church of the Lord, Jesus Christ has to start thinking about these things in biblical terms, we shouldn’t be surprised that no one else is.

Part III

The Bleakness of Our Society’s Dating Scene: Secularism Seems Unable to Produce a Flourishing Dating Culture, But the Church Can

One final thought on these issues, the New York Times just this past Saturday ran an editorial piece entitled, “Why Aren’t More People Marrying?” with the subhead, “Ask Women What Dating is Like.” Anna Louie Sussman is the journalist who wrote the piece identified as a journalist who writes about gender, dating, and reproduction. Well, that’s quite an assignment. I simply want to take the headline of this article, “Why Aren’t More People Marrying? Ask Women What Dating is Like.” And I want to point to a basic truth that Christians need to understand if no one else understands this.

The rise in the modern age of this idea of dating as the main way that a young man and a young woman might get to know one another and try to figure out if they have enough common interest to pursue a relationship. And if that relationship turns into something serious enough that marriage might be on the horizon, that also requires the moral context of the expectation of marriage rather than cohabitation.

But the entire background there being dating, you have a huge problem. And that is the fact that the dating scene is. I think the New York Times is not exaggerating here. For many women, a very disappointing scene. It is for both men and women, sometimes a very frustrating scene. And I’m not saying that through that process, it’s impossible for a young man and a young woman to find true love and to find commitment that leads to the covenant of marriage. That’s not what I’m saying. I am saying however, that that falls short of what common sense tells us ought to be the norm for Christian young men and Christian young women when it comes to the issue of finding a husband or finding a wife.

And that is because what’s left out of this, of course, is what’s in recession and in decline, and frankly, probably not even on the minds of those who write these kinds of articles and edit them for the New York Times. And that is the church, a congregation, the body of Christ. Christians, intergenerationally and congregationally in a networks of Christians including Christian institutions, Christian colleges, and other settings that are simply working in order to bring young people together, Christian Young people who ought not to be unequally yoked with an unbeliever, to bring Christian Young people into proximity with one another, to create a culture in which young men and young women engage one another.

And then of course, even to offer the ministry of suggestion, a bit of impetus to a young man to summon the courage to ask a young woman for a date. The advice and counsel that comes by godly young women and older women for that matter, and others speaking into the lives of women saying, “I think this is a good thing for you or not a good thing for you.” Helping young people to evaluate what does marriage mean? What does it mean to look for a husband? What does it mean to look for a wife in a biblical sense? And then of course, to understand that the delay of marriage in this society is something that is deeply toxic coming with all kinds of dangerous consequences.

It comes, for instance, with much of the attention given to infertility these days. Infertility, at least for many in this society, is at least contributed to by attempting to have children so late because marriage is coming so late. Biblically understood the entire society should be putting a premium on young people, getting married, staying married, having children, and having more children than they’re having right now. A society that is failing on these counts that better ask some very fundamental questions.

But it’s not just society, it’s also the church. The Christian Church needs to be asking the question, “What should we be doing in order to build a culture of marriage, a culture of staying married, faithful and happy in marriage, and a culture of helping married couples to become moms and dads, and to welcome those children into the community as those who are to be anticipated and warmly welcomed in the fellowship of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, Christians have also understood that God’s calling vocation in individual life sometimes means to a life that does not include marriage. But from the very beginning of Christianity, the vast majority of believers have understood a call to marriage and have come together in marriage. And the Christian Church has learned to honor marriage even as we honor all of those who are living out their biblically defined vocation under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

There are some who would say, “Look, the Christian Church just gives too much attention to marriage.” And I’ll just say, “Well, the math is not backing up that argument.” I guess the bottom line in that is that it falls to the Christian Church to do what the society around us no longer will do sometimes by impersonal forces like modernization and industrialization, sometimes by ideological influence such as second wave feminism and the ideal of personal autonomy.

All of that adds up to the fact that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ must be the place, even if the last place where marriage and children are honored and frankly in the main expected. I thought I would get to some other issues today, but I didn’t because I believe these issues are so important, and I’m simply going to stop here.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler.

For information on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.

I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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