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Love in the Time of Recession: Money and Marriage, Part II

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 14, 2009 11:45 AM

A Two Part Series on Marriage and Divorce Rates in the Current Economy

Part Two, Mad Men: The Mancession and Marriage

As discussed in Part I, the recession has had a marked effect not only on American lives, but on the state of American marriage, and the results can be somewhat surprising. In this section, we will briefly review the effect of recent job losses on men and marriage.

Many have termed the Great Recession the "mancession" because the brunt of the job losses have fallen on male workers. According to statistics reported in the National Marriage Project Report, The State of Our Unions, Marriage in America 2009: Money & Marriage, 75% of job losses have fallen on the male portion of the workforce, particularly poor and working class men.

But although job losses have effected both Wall Street and Main Street, it might surprise you to learn that it's not Gordon Gekko who is getting a divorce, it's Archie Bunker. In The State of Our Unions report, the article by Bradford Wilcox, The Great Recession's Silver Lining? predicts that working class job losses  "... will undercut marriage in working class communities." 

The real effect is shown when men are less employed than their spouses. Wilcox reports that men who work less hours than their wives are 61% less likely to report that they are "very happy" in their marriages compared to men who work as many or more hours than their wives. The job losses in the working class communities will unfortunately shore up the emerging "divorce divide" between college educated couples and those with less education that has been growing since the 1980s. 

But before the results of the mancession make you long for a return to Ozzie and Harriet role models, consider this. According to research from Ron Wilcox, a professor at U.Va.'s Darden School of Business, if men do the family shopping and women do the financial investing, the family does better financially. Because men get no pleasure from shopping (just look at those benches at the mall), they spend more carefully at the store than women. Women however, are better investors than their spouses as they are less likely to be over-confident about their skills and more willing to ask for professional help. It's that old "ask for directions" issue all over again, but with money.

The sum of the effect of the recession on American families will not be known for years or perhaps decades. However, if it has brought us a return to "American" values such as family, thrift and optimism in difficult times, it has a silver lining indeed.

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