Series: CCF Briefs

Is there a shortage of marriageable men?

Isabel V. Sawhill and Joanna Venator



In the last half century, marriage rates have fallen dramatically. In this paper, we explore possible drivers of this trend, including declining economic prospects among men, an increase in unwed births that constrain women’s later marriageability, rising rates of incarceration, and a reversal of the education gap that once favored men and now favors women. We estimate that the decline in male earnings since 1970 among both black and less-educated white men can explain a portion of the decline in marriage, but that cultural factors have played an important role as well. We argue that the ratio of marriageable men to women depends critically on how one defines “marriageable.” Looking just at current data rather than historical trends, and using different definitions of marriageability, we find that there are shortages of marriageable men among the black population, but not among the white population (except among the best educated).