The NYT Spots the Latest Trend: Dying Alone
August 06, 2006, 05:00 AM
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Last week, the Los Angeles Times memorably recounted the story of the impoverished illegal alien woman with three children who started taking fertility pills and quickly added triplets followed by quadruplets.

This week, the New York Times runs a demographic article entitled "Facing Middle Age With No Degree, and No Wife" by Eduardo Porter and Michelle O'Donnell [August 6, 2006] that unwittingly explores the flip side of the subject of fecund illegal immigrants: American men who can't afford to marry because they face increasingly unfavorable supply and demand curves for work and homes:

"About 18 percent of men ages 40 to 44 with less than four years of college have never married, according to census estimates. That is up from about 6 percent a quarter-century ago."

There are a number of causes, such as loosened sexual mores, but the economic factor—what I call Affordable Family Formation—is important. As the NYT article notes:

"For men without higher education, though, dwindling prospects in the labor market have made a growing percentage either unwilling to marry or unable to find someone to marry them."

The Times explains further:

"Between 1979 and 2003, the earnings of men with a few years of college but no degree barely kept up with inflation … For high school graduates with no college experience, men's earnings declined 8 percent over the period…

The article cites the distinguished Harvard social scientist Christopher Jencks, who is a sort of James Q. Wilson of the left-of-center:

"It is a mistake to think of this as just happening to the underclass at the bottom … It is also happening to people with high school diplomas or even some college. That is the group that has been most affected by the decline in real wages in the last 30 years."

Now, why have wages for less-skilled men stagnated or fallen? There are a number of plausible reasons, including the large expansion of the supply of labor due to more women entering the workforce in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet, the rate of female labor force participation peaked in 2000 and in 2006 is no higher than in 1994, so that explanation is growing obsolete.

One obvious reason is the enormous and continuing influx of less-skilled workers. Sam Quinones's terrific article in the LA Times cited a Mexican immigrant's explanation of the advantage of moving from California to Kentucky, where there are "fewer Mexican immigrants bidding down the wages for unskilled jobs."

Unfortunately, as is typical of the Mainstream Media, this NY Times' story's explication of the declining wage and marital prospects of less educated Americans doesn't dare mention the forbidden " I Word." [Vdare.com note: Ask the New York Times why this is so.]

Which is ironic, because the reporters could simply have asked their own source Dr. Jencks about the effects of immigration on wages. In late 2001, Jencks authored an important series in the liberal intellectual flagship, The New York Review of Books, entitled "Who Should Get In?" (Part 1, Part 2). In it, he said:

"Since 1970, immigration has increased the number of unskilled job applicants faster than the number of skilled job applicants. First-year economics predicts that increasing the relative number of unskilled workers will depress their wages, because employers will not need to raise wages to attract applicants for unskilled jobs. Nonetheless, those who favor an expansive immigration policy often deny that the increase in the number of unskilled job applicants depresses wages for unskilled work, arguing that unskilled immigrants take jobs that natives do not want.

This is sometimes true. But we still have to ask why natives do not want these jobs. The reason is not that natives reject demeaning or dangerous work. Almost every job that immigrants do in Los Angeles or New York is done by natives in Detroit and Philadelphia. Far from proving that immigrants have no impact on natives, the fact that American-born workers sometimes reject jobs that immigrants accept reinforces the claim that immigration has depressed wages for unskilled work."

The NYT article only vaguely touches on another major financial disincentive to getting married: expensive homes.

By increasing demand for housing, immigration tends to drive up housing prices. For example, in California, the state with the most foreign-born residents (27 percent), the median home price this spring was $562,380, which would require an income of $127,950 to afford. Unfortunately, California's median income in 2004 was $51,185.

High home prices have profound implications because contemporary Americans tend to view social adulthood—most specifically, marriage—as something that should not much precede financial adulthood—especially, being able to afford a house.

This attitude is prevalent among both the poor and the rich. For example, sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, authors of Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage, wrote an essay in the Washington Post (May 1, 2005) entitled "Unmarried Because They Value Marriage." In it, they explained that single mothers in Philadelphia told them:

"Marriage, we heard time and again, ought to be reserved for those couples who've acquired the symbols of working-class respectability—a mortgage on a modest rowhouse, a reliable car, a savings account and enough money left over to host a 'decent' wedding."

In states where home prices have gone up the fastest over the last quarter century, marriage tends to be least popular. There is a strong -0.70 inverse correlation by state between housing inflation over the 1980 to 2004 period and the average number of years that a white woman can expect to be married between ages 18 through 44.

In turn, "Years Married" among white women correlates at the extraordinarily high 0.91 level with George W. Bush's 2004 share of a state's vote. Bush, running on the Republican "family values" platform, carried the 26 states with the highest level of marriage among younger white women.

So, you might think that, as Republicans, President Bush and Karl Rove would want to encourage Affordable Family Formation by discouraging immigration. In California, the highest immigration state, Republican Presidential candidates won nine out of ten times from 1952-1988, but have been skunked by Democrats in the last four races.

Instead, the White House has obsessively worked to Californicate the rest of America. In his weekly radio address yesterday, Mr. Bush, in the words of US Today, "challenged Congress to give him legislation that will welcome more foreigners into the country."

Worse, unaffordable family formation threatens more than just the future of the GOP.

Among those who don't see themselves as being able to afford marriage, the more responsible tend to delay having children, sometimes forever, while the less responsible tend to have children out of wedlock.

This doesn't bode well for the future of America.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]