Good Why Women Wait Longer To Get Married In The New American Society Literature Review Example

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Women, Marriage, Relationships, Love, Social Issues, Education, Family, Workplace

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2021/01/11


Current research indicates that lot of modern women in the American society are delaying marriage and choosing to pursue other ventures such as careers. Emphasis and keenness on marriage has decreased among the modern American women, and most are willingly putting off marriage and first seeking to grow their careers and establish themselves. The modern American woman is highly educated unlike the olden days. Where the number of college-educated women in the society was significantly low. Highly educated women often pursue high end promising careers, and it appears that these two factors are playing a great role in the observed voluntary delaying of marriage. Simply put, education appears to be one of the factors causing delaying of marriage of women. This is, in fact, the main hypothesis of this paper that seeks to conduct an exhaustive literature review of various sources that explore the issue. The paper will seek to show that high education in women, emphasis on careers and increased involvement in the workplace and the national economy are the main contributors to the delaying of marriage in women. Answering these questions will be crucial as it will facilitate the envisioning of the future of the modern society that is characterized by highly educated women who are involved even in high-end careers that were traditionally reserved for men.

Literature Review

Every society in the world places great importance on the institution of marriage. Marriage is said to be one of the pillars of the society as it acts as the foundation of childbearing leading to the continuity of the society. Traditionally, emphasis on marriage has varied across the two genders. The difference in emphasis on marriage has been proliferated by gender stereotypes where women have been traditionally assigned the gender role of childbearing. It was generally believed that the role of women in the society was to simply get married, have children and then raise them. Men were supposed to lead their families and offer protection and basic needs. Most women seemed to have already been resigned to this role and many therefore simply aspired to grow up and get married. Emphasis on women education was minimal, and many did not even bother going to college. Times have however changed and these days, there is an incredulous amount of college going women in the American society, their number almost equaling that of women, In addition, there are women who have made a name for themselves in high-end careers that were reserved for men. This trend has been accompanied by decreased emphasis on marriage by women.
According to O’rand and Henrietta, new trends such as postponement of marriage as well as childbearing, separation and divorce as well as early career entry have altered the traditional life cycle of the family (299). One traditional attitude of the society in regards to unmarried women has been that they are either deviant or are in one way or another inadequate and insufficient for normal adulthood duties and roles (Forsyth and Johnson 91). However, a growing trend of singlehood that opposes this attitude and view has emerged, and this is in regards to an increasing number of women who are pursuing singlehood voluntarily and consciously (Forsyth and Johnson 91). This has ultimately led to the casting of single women in a more positive light.
This trend has been accompanied by an increased economic role of women in the society. This has however not occurred overnight but has instead taken place over a progressive period in phases. According to Goldin, the first phase took place from the last 19th century to the 1920’s; the second phase took place between 1930 and 1950, the third phase was from the 1950’s to the 1970’s while the latest phase which is also referred to as the quiet revolution commenced in the 1970's and is still ongoing (n.p). The first three phases of this movement of increased involvement in the economy by women were evolutionary in nature while the others were revolutionary. The transition from evolution to revolution was marked by an increased worth of women in the society and expansion of their defined identity. It also involved a transition from jobs to careers. According to Goldin, those women who were born in the evolutionary phases married quite early enough such that their adult identity was essentially formed after marriage (n.p). The case was, however, different for those born in the revolutionary phases because they married so late that the formation of their adult identity actually preceded marriage. Gouldin also shows that this shift occurred mostly to highly educated women although uneducated women also went through the same. This therefore shows that education has played a key role in the increased involvement of women in the economy and the subsequent less emphasis or delay in marriage. The “quiet revolution” phase seems to have had the greatest effect as it was the stage where college attendance rates of women increased significantly. Gouldin also shows that the median age at first marriage increased by a huge margin of almost 2.5 years for those women who had graduated from college (n.p). This was in the early 1970’s, and this median age has continued to rise even up to today. One point in relation to Gouldin’s research that is important to note is that she seems to suggest that it is mostly the highly educated women who have played a greater role in the increased involvement of women in the economy.
The increased entrance of women to the workplace in the latter half of the 20th century has forced women to make a difficult tradeoff between work and family (Buckles 403). This refers to both timing of marriage, as well as timing of fertility (childbearing). The exact influence of the increased entrance of women into the workplace is that a lot of women have forced to delay these important timings, marriage, and fertility. In addition wage premiums have also affected this delay as women seek to concentrate more on their careers and hopefully in time increase their wage premiums before finally settling down.
However, the increased involvement of women in the workplace as a result of increased levels do education can also be seen as having an effect on the delaying of marriage or even breaking of marriage and family interactions. Menaghan suggests that workplace conditions are increasingly affecting family and spousal interactions (419).Conditions such as workload could mean that women have no time for relationships and therefore consciously delay marriage. Other conditions that are seen to have a negative effect of family interactions include restrictions for self-direction, poor interpersonal relations at the workplace, low opportunities for collaborative problem solving, low earnings, and job insecurity (Menaghan 419). Women are seemingly more affected by this, and this is why many are choosing not to get married early as they postulate that marriage at their current situations would only add to their problems (Martin 94).
The wage gap between males and females could also be having an effect on this aspect as women choose to first concentrate on their careers (Mincer and Polachek 110). There also seem to be a new trend where women earnings and their contribution to family consumption expenses are increasing and in order to increase their chances of sufficiently contributing to their families, women must first concentrate on their careers and this ultimately results in them voluntarily delaying their family duties including marriage (Mincer and Polachek 110).
Jejeebhoy acknowledges that women’s education is a natural right. The education of women in society generally leads to an increase in a nation’s productivity, economic development, income and better life quality (n.p). Jejeebhoy contends that although the importance attached to education of women varies across cultures, there is no doubt that it empowers women and gives them some sought of autonomy and freedom. This autonomy then enables women to be able to make crucial decisions regarding their lives. This includes delaying marriages and even when married, choosing the number if children that one is comfortable with. Another element found by Jejeebhoy is that education also increase the age of marriage. However, the author is fast to claim that the interrelationship between education and female autonomy and even the fertility is not so straightforward there are, in fact, various complications that could affect some of the mentioned outcomes of education.
The role of education in the delaying of marriage by women is further shown by Gerstein (2000). The author conducted a study of premarital pregnancy among women aged between 15 and 29 years old between 1980 and 10995 and found some quite interesting findings. One of these was that the number of premaritally pregnant women who married before their first child had gone down. The total number of births that also occurred premaritally also increased. The author attributes these observations to two things. The first is increased societal acceptance of pre-marriage pregnancies as well as births. The second is social change in terms of women choosing to pursue careers or education where they delay marriage and some even chose to have children premaritally because they consider it to be less tasking restrictive than marriage itself (Martin 91).
One other important issue emanating from this research seems to show that premarital pregnancies and births among blacks are significantly higher when compared to those of white and Hispanic women (Gerstein 99). However, this aspect is not down to increased acceptance premarital births or even less emphasis on marriage. Among the black community, the contributing factors to high rates of premarital births are many, and these range from poverty, lack of proper sex education among others. In fact, rates of education among blacks are significantly lower when compared with those of other races. In addition, it emerges that delayed marriage rates seem to be higher in white women when compared to other ethnicities such as Hispanics and Blacks. This is attributable to the fact that white women are generally more educated and enjoy better social and economic conditions (Goldstein and Kenney 511).


It is clear that the modern American society has experience a rapid shift when it comes to marriage. The literature shows that more and more women in America, especially those who are highly educated are intentionally delaying marriage. This literature review has shown that the major reasons for this are tied to higher education and career pursuit. In addition, other factors such as workplace conditions and lower wage premiums have also played a part delaying marriage and child rearing. Delayed marriage rates seem to be higher in white women when compared to other ethnicities such as Hispanics and Blacks. Premarital pregnancies and births have also been on the rise showing that marriage is no longer viewed as the sole vehicle for childbearing. There are, however, some areas that could be exposed to more research to shed more light on this issue. These include the role that men have played in the delaying of marriage by women as well the factors that could perhaps lead to re-emphasis of marriage in women in the future.

Works Cited

Forsyth, Craig J. and Johnson, Elaine L. “A Sociological View of the Never Married”. International Journal of Sociology of the Family, 25. 2 (1995): 91-104.
Goldin, Claudia. “The quiet revolution that transformed women's employment, education, and family.” National Bureau of Economic Research (2006).
Jejeebhoy, Shireen J. "Women's education, autonomy, and reproductive behavior: Experience from developing countries." OUP Catalogue (1995).
L. Gerstein. “Women Aged 15-29 Are Increasingly Having First Children before Marriage.” Family Planning Perspectives. 32.2 (2000): 99.
Menaghan, Elizabeth G. "Work Experiences and Family Interaction Processes: The Long Reach of The Job?" Annual Review of Sociology 17 (1991): 419- 444.
Mincer, Jacob, and Solomon Polachek. "Family investments in human capital: Earnings of women." Marriage, family, human capital, and fertility.” NBER, (1974): 76-110.
O'Rand, Angela M. and Henretta, John C. “Women at Middle Age: Developmental Transitions”. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 464 (1982): 57-64.
Kasey Buckles.” Understanding the Returns to Delayed Childbearing for Working.” The American Economic Review 98. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the One Hundred Twentieth Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (2008): 403-407.
Goldstein, Joshua R., and Catherine T. Kenney. "Marriage delayed or marriage forgone? New cohort forecasts of first marriage for US women." American Sociological Review (2001): 506-519.
Martin, Steven P. "Delayed marriage and childbearing: Implications and measurement of diverging trends in family timing." Social inequality (2002): 79-119.

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