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Bringing Home the Bacon: Have Trends in Men’s Pay Weakened the Traditional Family?


December 14, 2022

Key Points

  • Both the populist right and left claim that raising a family on one income has become harder and that men’s declining economic prospects are behind rising single parenthood. They argue men have become less “marriageable” over time.
  • Based on marriageability thresholds set at what typical young sole-breadwinning fathers earned in 1979, young men are at least as marriageable today as they were in the 1960s, when sole-breadwinning and two-parent families were far more common. 
  • The family transformations of the past 60 years are more the result of affluence than of changing male earnings, which have increased over the past 30 years. The earlier decline in male earnings was more an effect of family change than its cause.