It's been, oh, weeks since one of our "liberal" elite newspapers has said that successful career women (and the evil liberals who think women should have careers) are causing societal rot. So I guess we were overdue for "The Real Marriage Penalty" by Annie Murphy Paul, in today's New York Times Magazine.
What are liberals and these unnatural she-creatures responsible for now, according to Ms. Paul? Oh, just the apportionment of wealth in modern society:
Over the past generation, the liberal notion of egalitarian marriage -- in which wives are in every sense their husbands' peers -- has gone from pie-in-the-sky ideal to unremarkable reality. But this apparently progressive shift has been shadowed by another development: America's growing gap between rich and poor. Even as husbands and wives have moved closer together on measures of education and income, the divide between well-educated, well-paid couples and their less-privileged counterparts has widened, raising an awkward possibility: are we achieving more egalitarian marriages at the cost of a more egalitarian society?
Yup -- inequality is rising not because the tradition of progressive taxation has been reversed since the Reagan era, or because union membership is dwindling, or because we've shipped all the manufacturing jobs overseas and replaced them with greeter jobs at Wal-Mart, or because the pay top executives receive is a much larger multiple of ordinary workers' pay than ever. Nope -- it's liberals and harpies! The damn broads are getting successful in business and the professions, so well-off men aren't marrying their secretaries anymore!
Paul does cite statistics to support her thesis:
In an article published last year in the journal Demography, [sociologists Christine Schwartz and Robert Mare] reported that the odds of a high-school graduate marrying someone with a college degree declined by 43 percent between 1940 and the late 1970s. In our current decade, the researchers wrote, the percentage of couples who are "educationally homogamous" -- that is, share the same level of schooling -- reached its highest point in 40 years.
But then she quotes an economist named Gary Burtless who all but says those numbers are meaningless:
Burtless ... says he believes that "the tendency of like to marry like has remained roughly unchanged over time. What have changed are the labor-market opportunities and behavior of women." In this conception, men have always married women of their own social class, but such stratification was obscured by the fact that the female halves of these couples often did not work or pursue advanced degrees.
Makes sense to me. Yet Paul essentially ignores this explanation.
And all this leads to a truly bizarre passage:
...as the current clash over gay marriage demonstrates, private choices about whom we marry -- or don't marry, or can't marry -- can have loud public reverberations. Not long ago, the marriages of whites and blacks, and the lifting of laws that once prohibited such unions, revealed a nation beginning to open its mind on matters of race; likewise, rates of marriage across lines of education and income provide an index of social mobility.
What on earth does that "likewise" mean?
The only way the word has any meaning at all, the only sense I can make of it, is that Paul believes upscale people are oppressing the less well-off by refusing to marry them -- oppressing them the way laws against interracial marriage oppressed African-Americans. So if you marry a fellow lawyer, it's the moral equivalent of burning a cross on the lawn of a black man marries to a white woman?
If you want to reduce inequality, start repealing tax cuts for the well-to-do -- don't wag a finger and tell them not to marry.