But at one demographic has seen a recent increase in marriage rates: high-earning women. The implications of this phenomenon on everything from the economy to our sex lives is the subject of a new book by Liza Mundy: “The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family,” on sale Tuesday, March 20 and featured on the March 15 cover of TIME magazine.
Mundy bases her argument in part on the findings of The Hamilton Project, which studied income and work patterns and found that while women in lower income brackets were getting married in smaller numbers, marriage rates for women in the top earning percentile increased by ten percentage points, suggesting that with increased work opportunities for women, more women are choosing marital as well as financial independence -- though women who have reached he pinnacles of financial success are pairing off in increasing numbers. As Mundy describes it, the reason for the uptick is that men view a woman's earning power as more attractive than ever before. And that, Mundy claims, means we're in for a huge dismantling -- in some cases a complete reversal -- of traditional gender roles.
One of the signs of what Mundy describes in the book as the "Big Shift" is women's academic prowess. 57 percent of undergraduates are female, and women earn the majority of doctorates and master’s degrees, leading some experts to suggest that in a quarter century, medicine and law fields will be dominated by women. While some, like UK Universities Minister David Willetts, have suggested that the gender gap in education will lead women to “dumb themselves down” or hide their success to catch a husband, Mundy argues the opposite: “Men are just as willing as women to marry up, and life is now giving them the opportunity to do so.”
As proof, she cites a 2001 study led by psychologist David Buss at The University of Texas at Austin that found a vast change in the values men reported looking for in a mate: Over a 50 year period, the importance men placed on a woman’s income and ability to support herself rose astronomically while a once-strong emphasis on her domestic skills plummeted. Changing ideas of masculinity and the fact that men are now more involved at home have a lot to do with that, Mundy suggests.
While not all of her predictions for future gender dynamics are positive, one thing is clear: The days when pop culture can call to mind a strictly female “Gold-digger” are numbered.