Does a shortage of 'economically attractive' men fuel marriage decline?

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A shortage of "economically attractive men" is the latest theory to have been put forward by researchers to explain the decline in marriage in the US. 

A new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that unmarried women may be snubbing the unmarried men in their circles because they are underwhelmed by their financial and educational circumstances. 

For their study, the researchers from Cornell University examined the typical sociodemographic characteristics of unmarried women's ideal male spouses and looked at how these sized up against the real-life husbands of married women. 

The researchers uncovered disparities between the expectations of the unmarried women and the reality of the unmarried men available to them in the areas of income, employment and education. 

The findings suggested that many of the unmarried women were dreaming of an intelligent high-flyer in a comfortable financial position, while the reality was far more modest.

The 'dream' husband of the unmarried women was found to be much wealthier than the men 'on the marriage market', with an average income 58% higher than that of real-life unmarried men across the US. 

The fantasy husband was also 30% more likely to be employed and 19% more likely to have a college degree than the current crop of unmarried men. 

"Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men—men with a stable job and a good income—make this increasingly difficult, especially in the current gig economy of unstable low-paying service jobs," said lead author Daniel T. Lichter, PhD, of Cornell University.

"Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women's educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors."