The Freakonomics of Marriage: Or, If I’m Married, How Come I’m not RICH Yet?
The year of magical thinking about marriage, reproduction and vaginas (see reviews of Naomi’s Wolf’s hilariously trashed book) continues. The conservative Heritage Foundation released a report last week that reprises the argument that non-marriage is a source of poverty. Conversely, as a pro-traditional marriage bus stop poster in Washington, DC once promised, magically, “Marriage Makes You Rich.” That’s why all the married folk on your street drive BMWs, wear Prada, and vacation in the Hamptons.*
The report’s analysis is descriptively accurate: More affluent, college-educated Americans marry more and divorce less today than the white and non-white working classes alike and the poor, who seem to be abandoning the institution of marriage in greater numbers. But a correlation isn't the same as a causation.
Maybe it’s not that poor people are poor because they’re not married. Rather, they don’t marry because they’re poor. It’s likely that France’s Minister of Justice Michèle Alliot-Marie was right to conclude that marriage is “a bourgeois institution.”
I don’t mean “bourgeois” as a criticism. Marriage works best and has the most logic when it can create economies of scale between two individuals with jobs, and/or resources, either tangible in the form of a paycheck, or intangible in their willingness to contribute parenting and domestic labor—even if that means engaging in “ideology mobility,” as I call it, and setting aside patriarchal, “traditional” ideas that husbands should be breadwinners. When these two people with resources of these kinds join in marriage, their lives are easier and more affordable.
At the margins of the economy, however, for the filthy rich and the dirt poor, marriage doesn’t seem to make as much sense.
Consider the most notoriously non-marrying communities in the U.S.: the multi-million dollar estates of the stars in Beverly Hills and the "abandominiums" of impoverished neighborhoods in rustbelt cities such as my own.
Hollywood celebrities avoid marriage, or do it so casually that some entertainment columnists suspect that it’s more a "publicity extravaganza” than a marriage. Raoul Felder, the famous celebrity divorce lawyer, sees a celebrity marriage as "the first step on the road to divorce."
Kim Kardashian’s 72-day quickie marriage (“Mistake or Fake?” wonders People) is one recent example in a history of Hollywood never-lasting love that stretches back to Elizabeth Taylor. "Express" Hollywood marriages can last from 10 days (Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman) to three weeks (Drew Berrymore and Jeremy Thomas) to seven months (Shannon Doherty and Ashley Hamilton). InStyle magazine featured Courtney Thorne-Smith on its cover when she married a genetic scientist, but before the magazine hit the newsstands seven months later, the couple had already separated. Hollywood stars must not have the same marital metabolism as the rest of us.
Hollywood marriage founders because there’s too much wealth and individual capital at stake to make it easy, financially advantageous, or worth the risk. Marriage in deeply low-income communities founders because there is too little wealth and too little individual capital at stake to make it easy, financially advantageous, or worth the risk, either.
For example, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones’ marriage was almost derailed by intricate pre-nuptial negotiations. Douglas had rejected Zeta-Jones' request for $4.4 million for every year they were married, and a house for life. Douglas' attorney was counter-offering $1.4 million a year and a house, but one that would remain a part of Douglas’ estate. But Zeta-Jones, who was pregnant with Douglas’ child, had already agreed to let Douglas keep all the wedding presents worth more than $18,000, and felt that she’d compromised enough. "She isn't money grabbing,” a friend reassured an entertainment reporter (um, yes, well…). “She just doesn't want to feel like she's getting a raw deal." And Douglas had given his first divorced wife $60 million and a Santa Barbara mansion!
The poor women that Harvard sociologist Kathryn Edin writes about in her fine research on marriage don’t find themselves awkwardly featured on the cover of Instyle. Yet they’re just as “post-marriage.” In Baltimore, less than 10 percent of households now conform to the “traditional” model of a married, heterosexual couple with offspring.
Edin asked poor women why they wouldn’t marry, and found that they feel "marriage entails more risks than potential rewards." Women recognize that "any marriage is also economically precarious, might well be conflict ridden, and short lived." A poor woman might be better off not married because then "she has the flexibility to lower her household costs by getting rid of him." One woman told Edin that after her boyfriend lost his job, "I was trying to live on my welfare check and it just wasn't enough.… It was just too much pressure on me [even though] he is the love of my life. I told him he had to leave, even though I knew it wasn't really his fault…. But I had nothing in the house to feed the kids."
These women wanted to make sure that they kept everything in their name and control if they ever did marry. That’s the shared, self-protective logic of marriage for those who have a great deal to lose financially and for those who have very little to lose. Edin concludes that her subjects "simply could not afford to keep an economically unproductive man around the house. It's a luxury that a low income mother can't afford."
At the non-marrying economic margins, marriage ironically shares that quality of being a luxury--not all that utilitarian. Marriage for the low-income woman is a luxury in the sense that it’s something she wants and can’t afford. It’s a luxury for the Hollywood star in the sense that it’s something she can afford, but doesn’t need.
Marriage is entered into warily when the going is very tough, or when the going is very easy.
Both Hollywood and the “ghetto” also have attracted criticism for their non-marrying ways. Remedies abound. A frail celebrity marriage can go to an exclusive "couples treatment" at a day spa called Going to Skin in Envino, California. "I have created more love affairs, stopped more divorces, and made more people happy," boasts the spa's founder. The most popular couples package is "endless courtship." The two hour, $375 pampering session offers a privacy soak, dry brushing exfoliation, a cornmeal pineapple facial and massage.
That’s where Hollywood goes to fortify its marriages. Low-income couples in Baltimore go to “marriage education” classes in church basements and state government buildings, funded by the Federal government’s Healthy Marriage Initiative within the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. I can’t tell you if they get body shampoos and cornmeal pineapple facials, but I’m guessing not.
One empirical conclusion to draw from this tale of two cities is that "marriage works"—is most functional, utilitarian and “value-added”—for the middle class in the U.S., neither Hollywood rich nor ghetto poor. Poor people aren’t poor because they’re not married. To the contrary, they’re not married because they’re poor.
Poor women don’t reject the idea of marriage. Nor do Hollywood stars. It simply doesn’t end up running as smoothly or make as much sense for them economically.
Also, marriages in the professional class today are likely to pool the intangible assets of labor: They tend to engage in gender-bending around chores, breadwinning, and childcare, which makes marriage an even more adaptive and convenient arrangement for them—one that makes life easier and more prosperous (and therefore, more appealing). If you’re filthy rich, those benefits don’t matter as much. If you’re filthy poor, those benefits don’t apply as much.
Maybe the way to shore up marriage, for those who want that, is to shore up the American middle class that is marriage’s natural habitat? With living wages, perhaps, and good jobs?
*I posted parts of this column at this site in 2011, and update it here.
Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
New cancer-scanning technology reveals a previously unknown detail of human anatomy.
- Scientists using new scanning technology and hunting for prostate tumors get a surprise.
- Behind the nasopharynx is a set of salivary glands that no one knew about.
- Finding the glands may allow for more complication-free radiation therapies.
PSMA PET/CT technology<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="676e611b970c9b516cace0870447b325"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHAyoQF09X4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>PSMA PET/CT is a new combination of <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/pet-scan/about/pac-20385078" target="_blank">PET scans</a> and <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ct-scan/about/pac-20393675" target="_blank">CT scans</a> that is believed to offer a more reliable means of locating prostate cancer metastasis. A <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/prostate-cancer-psma-pet-ct-metastasis" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> published last spring suggests it may be the most accurate way to diagnose prostate cancer metastasis than any method previously available.</p><p>Prior to PSMA PET/CT, the primary way to look for metastatic prostate cancer was to image the body using x-ray-based CT scans and to perform bone scans, since bone is where prostate cancer often spreads. CT scans, however, often miss small tumors, and bone scans can generate false positives as a result of other damage or abnormalities that have nothing to do with prostate cancer.</p><p>PSMA PET/CT scans track the travels of an intravenously administered radioactive glucose tracer throughout the body. For hunting down prostate cancer, this tracer contains a molecule that binds to the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472940/" target="_blank">PSMA</a> protein that's present in large amounts in prostate tumors. The molecule is linked to a radioisotope, <a href="https://netrf.org/2018/11/13/gallium-68-scan-for-neuroendocrine-tumors/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gallium-68</a> (Ga-68).</p><p>In last spring's research, PSAM PET/CT was shown to be 27 percent more accurate than previous methods at finding metastases (92 percent accuracy as opposed to 65 percent). In addition, it was found to be much less likely to produce false positives, and it was particularly good at detecting tumors far removed from the prostate.</p>
A good kind of avoidance behavior<p>"Radiation therapy can damage the salivary glands," says Vogel, "which may lead to complications. Patients may have trouble eating, swallowing, or speaking, which can be a real burden."</p><p>The researchers looked back through the cases of 723 patients who had undergone radiation treatment, interested in seeing if inadvertent radiation of the tubarial glands was associated with the complications experienced by the patients. It turned out that this <em>was</em> the case: In cases where more radiation had been delivered to this area, patients did indeed report more in the way of complications of the type one would expect when salivary glands are radiated.</p><p>Now that we know the tubarial salivary glands exist, therapists can stay out of their way. Vogel says, "For most patients, it should technically be possible to avoid delivering radiation to this newly discovered location of the salivary gland system in the same way we try to spare known glands."</p><p>He's hopeful that that things may be about to get at least a bit better for cancer patients: "Our next step is to find out how we can best spare these new glands and in which patients. If we can do this, patients may experience less side effects which will benefit their overall quality of life after treatment."</p>
A new survey found that 27 percent of millennials are saving more money due to the pandemic, but most can't stay within their budgets.