Social Issues

Drug War Undermines Traditional Marriage: Hear that Social Cons?

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one option for would-be brides on the outside

New research finds that insanely high incarceration rates in the United States have contributed to declining marriage rates. Charles Kerwin Kofi and Ming Ching Luoh write in The Review of Economics and Statistics that "higher male imprisonment appears to have lowered the likelihood that women marry, modestly reduced the quality of their spouses when they do marry, and shifted the gains from marriage away from women and toward men."

In other words, the drug war is undermining traditional marriage. Hear that social conservatives?

The paper attributes about 13 percent of the decline in marriage rates overall since 1990 to the fact that an awful lot of dudes are in jail.

Incarceration rates vary by socioeconomic class and also by race; in 2004, one in eight black males age 25-29 was incarcerated compared to one in 28 Hispanic males and one in 59 white males. If women search for future husband in their own community—where community is defined over geographic, economic or racial qualities—then some women are more disadvantaged than others. The evidence suggests that this is true. For example, black women are the most disadvantaged—about 18% percent of the decline in marriage rates among black women can be explained by incarceration. Hispanic women are also relatively disadvantaged, with about 10% of the reduction in marriage rates in that group explained by incarceration.

This effect is biggest for women with little education; particularly women with less than a high school education, but also for women with high school and some college. The only group of women unaffected by the trend is women who have a university degree, but it isn't that surprising that these women do not draw their partners from the same pool of men who have been affected by the increase in incarceration rates.

Social conservatives, please stop reading here, and take a little time to rethink your position on the war on drugs.

Everyone else, there are a couple of additional stats that seem to be related to high incarceration rates in certain groups: Employment for women is up dramatically, and divorce rates are down. These figures likely reflect the limited choices facing women in populations depleted of men.

Via tipstress extraordinaire Courtney Knapp.

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  1. Social conservatives, please stop reading here, and take a little time to rethink your position on the war on drugs.

    Maybe women should reconsider their standards and stop wanting to marry drug-using bums. Just sayin’

    Also, stop rocking the boat – where do you think all those Maury guests come from? Who are you to rob someone of his livelihood???

    1. What you’re “just sayin” is spot on. Furthermore, it’s not exactly as if all those cons are just poor drug-dealing victims of the War on Drugs (which I too loathe, BTW) and not murderous, larcenous, rapist thugs.

      Regardless, there is something actually refreshing and gratifying about having those of them that are the latter isolated from the breeding pool.

  2. Hispanic women are also relatively disadvantaged, with about 10% of the reduction in marriage rates in that group explained by incarceration.

    Well, except for the gang-bangers (who are quite unattractive), hispanic women are much more family-oriented than most – hear that, lonely white guys?

    1. I love strong women; Cuban women are where it’s at.

      1. If you can handle the drama.

        1. Women = drama (they go together) 🙂

    2. Hispanic women are also fat-stomach-oriented.

  3. Alan Vanneman is going to be pissed someone stole his “Tipstress Extraordinaire” title.

    As to the subject it might not be an accident or may be a happy accident that it is happening. So don’t expect the SoCons to change their view.

  4. *covers ears*

    lalalalalalalala…i can’t hear you…lalalalalalala

  5. Thinking that these empirical facts will change social conservatives’ minds assumes that their concern with “traditional marriage” is something other than a paper-thin excuse for using the force of law to subjugate homosexuals.

    Also, it assumes that social conservatives’ concern with a “drug-free America” is something other than a paper-thin excuse to put black people behind bars for the unforgivable sin of having so much melanin in their skin.

    Both of those assumptions are false. Thus, social conservatives won’t even notice the cognitive dissonance of supporting a “drug war” that undermines “traditional marriage,” much less act on it.

    1. I would like to disagree with you in some way. I myself would LIKE to think that, despite my grave disagreements with SoCons on these issues, that they are still human beings who still possess human empathy….

      But sadly, I’m having a hard time coming to that conclusion.

      1. SoCons don’t support the WoD because they are racist assholes bigoted against blacks, they support it because they are authoritarian assholes bigoted against drug users.

        1. No it’s both.

  6. Because of their one child policy, China has a vast surplus of presumably eligible men. Let’s import a few million for the excess hispanic and black women here.

    1. And we can save money by sending the USA citizens to China to serve time for victimless crimes.

  7. shifted the gains from marriage away from women and toward men.

    BULL. SHIT.

  8. The gist of this article is “men are jailed, women are harmed”. This is strikingly reminiscent of “world to end, women hit hardest”. If their imprisonment is unjust, why aren’t the men due sympathy in their own right?

    “shifted the gains from marriage away from women and toward men”

    If true, so what? The authors say that as if it’s a woman’s entitlement to get wealthy on her husband’s back.

    1. “The gist of this article is “men are jailed, women are harmed”. This is strikingly reminiscent of “world to end, women hit hardest”. If their imprisonment is unjust, why aren’t the men due sympathy in their own right?”

      Sure, but if you’re trying to say “There are too many people in prison from certain demographics and this says something about the criminal justice system” and your audience is saying “Criminals deserve the book thrown at them!”, it can help to highlight the unintended consequences.

      Honestly, Balko and Sullum point out the complete lack of justice these (mostly) men face at least once a week, to no avail. If approaching the issue from the family angle even opens up more dialog, I’m happy.

    2. “”shifted the gains from marriage away from women and toward men”
      If true, so what? The authors say that as if it’s a woman’s entitlement to get wealthy on her husband’s back.”

      Forgot to add… The article is addressing “traditional marriage” from the traditional standpoint, i.e., man works, woman stays home. If the man is a felon who can do nothing but flip burgers for a living and the couple wants more, the woman will have to take over as primary breadwinner. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to remember that the people beating the loudest drum for the continued and escalated WoD also bitch and moan about women working outside the home and how it undermines traditional relationships.

  9. Studies only mean something when they confirm my biases…thank you very much.

  10. And people ask me why I’m not married…..

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