Can Women Educate Themselves Out of a Family?

Shocking news from the University of Minnesota this week; when women can’t find a good husband they tend to put more energy into their careers. While something that I likely could have predicted, the statistics to prove the point are interesting.

The authors were interested in looking at how the ratio of men to women in an environment can affect the choices people make. Similar studies have been conducted throughout the animal kingdom, but for some reason, not much literature exists in humans.

For one study, Kristina Durante, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas at San Antonia College of Business, looked at the ratio of single men to single women in all 50 states and Washington D.C. Sure enough, when there was a surplus of women, they were more likely to enter high-paying careers and delay having children to start a family.

In a second study, coauthor Vlad Griskevicius, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, looked at college campuses. When led to believe that there was a surplus of women on campus through several newspaper articles, participants were more likely to report that they were motivated to pursue ambitious careers rather than start a family. What’s more, those who judged themselves as lower on the beauty scale also were more likely to report a career-minded approach.

None of this is surprising, right? I don’t ever recall hearing women in college state that their ambitions were to get knocked up out of wedlock, or to raise a child by themselves. And unfortunately, in our current society, it is very difficult for a woman to pursue a high-paying career while raising a child. Many men can’t – or aren’t willing to – become stay-at-home fathers, and many women loathe the idea of having daycare raise their children.

It’s one of the reasons why there is such a low percentage of women earning high education degrees in the sciences. Doing so requires a ton of time spent in the lab and library, is often at odds with raising a family, and there’s not a lot of support structures out there for those who want to do both.

One aspect of the study that Durante throws in is that as women complete college degrees, they become more likely to choose careers over children, but not necessarily by choice. Women outnumber men in all master’s degrees 60% to 40%, and the numbers show that more education leads to fewer unwed pregnancies. However, with more women than men in graduate schools, the numbers aren’t on the women’s side for finding a mate.

“As women pursue more education and more lucrative careers when they can’t find a husband, the ironic effect is that it will only get harder to find a husband as women become more educated and earn higher salaries,” said Durante. “This is because a woman’s mating standards keep increasing as she becomes more educated and wealthy, which further decreases the number of suitable mates. More than ever before, modern women are increasingly forced to make tough choices such as choosing briefcase over baby.”


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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