Pew Research predicts more people under 35 will be single forever. The number who have never taken the plunge (and never will) is at an all-time high.

“When today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (roughly 25%) is likely to have never been married,” write the report’s authors Wendy Wang and Kim Parker. “This is not to say that adults in their mid-40s to mid-50s who still haven’t married will never marry, but our analysis suggests that the chance of getting married for the first time after age 54 is relatively small.”

People are remaining single for three main reasons: They haven’t found the right person (30%); lack of finances (27%); and not ready to settle down (27%).

The Pew researchers found out something that guys have known forever: the most important quality in a man sought by women is a steady job. Next, women want a guy who has similar ideas on how to raise kids, which is the number-one thing men are looking for in a marriage partner.

The problem is fewer young men are in the workforce and those who are make less. “In fact, if you adjust for inflation, the median hourly wages of men aged 25 to 34 are a fifth less than they were in 1980,” Belinda Luscombe writes for Time.

“Men who had never married had some of the lowest levels of personal income—lower even than those who married before age twenty,” researchers for the Brookings Institution report. “Marriage makes men, including twentysomething men, harder, smarter, and better-paid workers.”

Evidently, women are tired of inspiring men be more productive. Sociology professor Pepper Schwartz writes on CNN:

The rise of the voluntarily single woman has been happening in Western societies slowly, over time, concomitant with well-paying jobs, legal protection from economic or physical abuse, reliable birth control and the possibility of fulfilling careers and adventures.

There are plenty of single available men, but fewer of them are employed and aren’t marriage material. The employed ones get snatched up. “If all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9% of them would fail,” say the folks from Pew, “simply because there are not enough men in the target group.”

Making the case for settling just for Mr. Good Enough, rather than Mr. Right, Lori Gottlieb insists that what women really want are children and someone to help support them. Forget all that soulmate stuff. The best-selling author and NPR commentator tells women—especially in their 30s—to “Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling ‘Bravo!’ in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics.”

Back in 2008, Gottlieb made her case in the Atlantic that heterosexual women should settle for Mr. Heterosexual Ho-Hum. But while she urged, “settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year,” her most compelling advice was for hetero women to hang out with, or live under one roof with, homosexual men. To that point, “when I think about marriages nowadays,” Gottlieb wrote, “my role models are the television characters Will and Grace, who, though Will was gay and his relationship with Grace was platonic, were one of the most romantic couples I can think of.”

What Gottlieb wants, along with many other women, is a buddy to live with. Someone with the good sense to put the lid down after he pees and a good eye for what shoes go with what dress. As she puts it, “a partner in crime.” She even tells of a friend who knows a couple of women who married men that are likely not straight. Forget the bedroom fireworks: just find a guy to provide another income and some help with the kids and/or household chores.

Let’s face it, on a day-to-day, run-the-household basis, most women have more in common with gay men than straight. That was what the old Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Bravo TV show was all about. Five gay guys would do an emergency makeover of some poor straight slob’s life in order to save his relationship. The Fab Five, as they were called, possessed all the skills and interests that women value but the vast majority of (straight) men couldn’t care less about.

Gottlieb wrote that she longs for “Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you on your bullshit and puts up with your quirks. So what if Will and Grace weren’t having sex with each other? How many long-married couples are having much sex anyway?”

Fast forward to 2015, and women “have challenged their chosen partners to participate in a whole new kind of connection that does not accept automatic hierarchy,” writes clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Randi Gunther.

John Wayne and Sean Connery need not apply. The new millennial men, as Gunther terms them, “get it that it’s sexy to help make a meal or take the kids away on a Sunday morning so their wives can sleep in. They are the androgynous guys that their women have asked them to become.”

Gals now have exactly what they want: a new, improved, sensitive man “who wants to work out together, share parenting, support their parallel dreams, and make their family collective central to both of their lives,” Gunther describes. “They’ve established an equal relationship of coordinated teamwork, and the guys don’t seem to miss their old need to posture for power over intimate connections.”

So divorce rates must be plunging, right? Well, no, half of all marriages still end in divorce, and women continue to initiate these breakups. But unlike in the past when infidelity, neglect, and abuse were the reasons for calling it quits, “Now they’re dumping men who are faithful, attentive, and respectful, the very men they said they have always wanted,” writes Gunther.

The jilted husbands think they have done everything right. Ironically, as Gunther writes, “they startlingly resemble the disheartened women of the past who were left behind by men who ‘just wanted something new.’”

Gunther writes that these women love their husbands but don’t want to be married to them. Women “don’t want to be yoked to anyone anymore. At least in the traditional ways they once embraced as ideal.”

The men who managed to be “vulnerable, open, and intimate, while donning armor to fight the dangers that threaten his family and place in the world” are being cast aside. What’s a guy to do?

Tastes in marriage evolve as capitalism shapes markets. Before economies advanced and violence prevailed, polygamy was prevalent among rich men. Rich dowries changed all of that and, as the legendary economist Ludwig von Mises wrote in his book Socialism, “Thus monogamy has been gradually enforced by the wife who brings her husband wealth and by her relatives—a direct manifestation of the way in which capitalist thought and calculation has penetrated the family.”

Marriage became a legal contract, breaking “the rule of the male, and makes the wife a partner with equal rights.”

Mises explains that women’s position improved when contracts penetrated other spheres of life, replacing violence. Writing in 1922, Mises explained:

That marriage unites one man and one woman, that it can be entered into only with the free will of both parties, that it imposes a duty of mutual fidelity, that a man’s violations of the marriage vows are to be judged no differently from a woman’s, that the rights of husband and wife are essentially the same—these principles develop from the contractual attitude to the problem of marital life.

Mises then writes something interesting that may shed some light on today’s marriage conundrum. “No people can boast that their ancestors thought of marriage as we think of it today. We can establish only that our views of what marriage should be are different from the views of past generations and that their ideal of marriage seems immoral in our eyes.”

Market relationships are always changing. That’s the nature of capitalism. Marriage is no different. As Mises points out, the ideal modern idea of marriage with men and women having equal rights “is the result of capitalist, and not ecclesiastical, development.”

Coming full circle from the days when successful men had many wives, “women now have choices that allow them to customize the arc of their lives and some of them find that it is best for them to put marriage aside,” Ms. Schwartz writes.

Comedian Sarah Silverman may be speaking for successful younger women, tweeting, “Why would I want the govt involved in my love life? Ew. It’s barbaric.”

That may sound harsh, but the high divorce rate supports it. “The high divorce rate in the United States, it seems to me,” wrote H.L. Mencken in 1924, “is chiefly if not wholly due to one single and simple cause …That cause is the American custom of marrying for love.”

90 years later, American women are starting to figure it out.


This article originally appeared at Casey Research.
The featured image was taken by Nick Nguyen (CC BY-SA 2.0 — resized).