Marriage is a Bad Investment for Bright Young Ladies

images-18If you’re looking for a quick boost of rage, I recommend checking out the viral Letter to the Editor in the Daily Princetonian from alumna Susan Patton, advising the young ladies of Princeton to tie a man down as soon as possible, lest you live the rest of your life as a lonely (albeit well-educated) hag. I suspect this is a desperate attempt on the part of the Daily Princetonian to get some national media attention, but it also brings up a whole lot of WTF that is worth dissecting anyway.

Highlights include reminding ladies that they will not have such a fine selection of potential suitors any other time than when they are at Princeton (her younger son coincidentally happsn to be one of these potential suitors and is a junior there right now, BTW). Because obviously you must marry someone your intellectual equal and that means only other Princeton students. She also doesn’t let us forget age biases against women, so you should start looking for a potential suitor as soon as your finish unpacking your dorm room – “As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?

There are obviously many things to find really frustrating this. Katie Baker on Jezebel says it succinctly, “The main issues with this piece are obvious and barely worth pointing out (quickly: not everyone wants to get married, not everyone wants to get married to an older man, etc.)” and goes on to point out the Princetonian’s bizarre editorial decision to even publishing such asinine letter, “it’s an even odder choice given the paper’s recent scoop on an unpublished study that found one in six female Princeton undergraduates said they experienced “non-consensual vaginal penetration” during their time at the University.”

Fellow Princeton alumna Nina Bahadur writes a great response on HuffPo, raising some questions to Patton and pointing out the flawed logic in Patton’s argument in 2013. (In what universe are college aged students ready to think about marriage? What if people don’t want to get married?)

But I have another question for Patton – why is it such a good idea for smart and ambitious women to focus their energy on getting married in the first place when it’s such a bad investment for their careers? The female marriage penalty is the phenomenon that married women earn less (usually about 10%) than their single counterparts even when controlling for age, education, IQ, race, children and other factors. If you are really concerned with the perceived benefits of a Princeton education, like developing your intellect and career skills, then why would you want to settle down young and receive a smaller return on your human capital investment? Is Patton really stuck back in the 1950s when going to college as a woman was seen as more of an opportunity to find a husband than it was to actually get yourself educated for a career? Going to Princeton just to find a husband seems like a lot of work for not a lot of payoff, i.e. a bad investment, especially when it could be a good investment if Princeton is really full of intellectually superior young people with high earning potential.


Categories: Means of Reproduction, Means of Reproduction-1

3 replies

  1. Interestingly, in later interviews Patton stood by her opinion. What was most painful/puzzling about her stance was that she presented her opinion as a “realistic” one. That she felt like she was just telling the hard truth to women, rather than lie to them. It reminded me that one of the biggest enforcers of misogyny and inequality are women themselves. It’s older women who paternalistically feel the need to be “honest” and “real” with younger women in order to protect them from the hard realities of the business world.

  2. The truth hurts. Have fun spinning away the obvious.


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