The End of Men Means the End of Marriage

For decades now, the labor market has trended away from male-dominated jobs in manufacturing and agriculture and toward female-dominated jobs such as education and health care. As we noted previously, an adverse consequence of the disappearance of traditionally male jobs is an impedance of marriage and family formation.

Lowering the economic status of males relative to females makes males less marriageable. In marriage, pretty much the only value a man can bring to the table is as an economic provider. Taking away a man’s advantage in providing economic resources leaves him without leverage in the marriage market.

Now a new report predicts that the labor market will continue to trend against men and towards women.

Overall, occupations that are more than 80% female are projected to grow at nearly twice the rate of jobs that are at least 60% male between 2014 and 2024, according to research out this week from the jobs site Indeed and its chief economist, Jed Kolko. The site researched Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that many are jobs that are traditionally dominated by women — including occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants and nurse practitioners — are growing at the fastest rate. They will grow at about a 40% rate, compared to an overall rate of 6.5% for all jobs.

Meanwhile, the male-dominated jobs are expected to contract.

[M]anufacturing and agriculture, which have traditionally employed more men than women, are projected to lose jobs in the next decade.

This article does not even mention that, over perhaps a bit longer horizon, huge numbers of driving jobs done my men are under threat from self-driving vehicles.

Anyone who values the traditional family unit as an important social institution should be very concerned with the increasing economic irrelevance of men. So should anyone concerned with low and declining birth rates. The way things are going, the only economically viable men are going to be the cognitive elite who work in science and technology. The rest of the men, however, are going to have generally poor marriage prospects. The women gainfully employed in health care are not going to want to marry unemployable men just so they can stay home and play Mr. Mom. That sort of traditional role-reversal might sound appealing in the abstract, but as a practical matter it won’t play out in the real world.

Historically, about 10 percent of 35-year-old women were unmarried, and a fair number of those would have been widows. Now, about 40 percent of 35-year-old American women are unmarried. Look for this figure to just keep increasing.

I’m not sure what we can do to solve or alleviate this problem. The default response from government seems to be to make the problem even worse by subsidizing single motherhood with various benefits such as subsidized day care. Another way that government exacerbates the problem is by making women beneficiaries of ‘affirmative action.’ Such policies, at the very least, need to be resisted.

Worse than a Crime (Updated)

Perhaps the most viral story online at the moment concerns the passenger violently removed from a United flight just because the airline had overbooked. The story in fact is quite astonishing and brings to mind Boulay de la Meurthe’s famous line: “C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est un faute.” (It’s worse than a crime, it’s a blunder.)

The blunder on the part of United’s management was huge, as United now looks like the nastiest company in the world, and it’s stock price has taken a significant hit.

The airline reportedly offered passengers as much as $800 to voluntarily give up seats on the overbooked flight, but nobody accepted that offer. That’s when United decided to resort to police state tactics. Of course, the thing to do would have been to ratchet up the $800 offer. At some point, passengers would have been willing to accept. As Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man, said, “Every man has his price.” Even if United had to offer $1600 to four passengers, that extra $3200 is a pittance compared to the legal and public relations costs United is now facing.

There are always two ways to get compliance from people. You can offer them value, or you can threaten them with force. The carrot or the stick. The carrot is always preferable, and is in fact the civilized way to proceed. And that, frankly, is the difference between the free market and communism. One relies on voluntarism, the other, force.

For United, this is apparently not the first time they’ve threatened their own customers. Here’s a story about United threatening to slap a guy in handcuffs unless he gave up his first-class seat. That allegedly happened just last week.

Civilized men do not settle disputes with force. United in these cases is guilty of behavior so uncivilized that the company should be shunned by all decent people. If United were forced out of business over this incident, the outcome would be justified.

In the past, I’ve defended corporate executives from criticism that they are overpaid, saying that, if you want top talent, you’ve got to pay. There must be a lot of very highly paid talent at a company as large as United Airlines, yet somehow amidst all that purported business acumen, the company adopted a policy that anyone with common sense would have known to be disastrous.

One final point. I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine an incident like this occurring 30 years ago. At that time, I believe cooler heads would have prevailed. Something bad has happened to our society. Levels of civility and trust have waned. In this case, not just the airline, but also the passenger behaved very poorly. The passenger did not conduct himself with dignity. Everybody on both sides comes off looking very bad.

Update. Turns out that many media reports about this incident were riddled with errors. First, the reason the airline needed the passenger removed was not over booking. Instead, the airline wanted to fly some of its own employees who were running late to staff a flight.

Also, many media outlets claimed that the airline’s actions, while deplorable, were perfectly legal. But the excellent nakedcapitalism.com notices that a lawyer posting on Reddit argues persuasively that United’s actions were in fact unlawful. The law states that United cannot give precedence to its own employees over customers with confirmed reserved seats.

[T]he law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it’s clear that what they did was illegal– they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a.

The victim is going to get a very nice settlement. And given that United broke the law, I should think a hefty fine from the FAA would be in order, although I’m not holding my breath, since the regulators basically work for the airlines.

A Nobel Laureate’s Disappointing Policy Advice

We reported previously on the research by Nobel laureate Angus Deaton and his wife Anne Case showing that the death rate has been increasing for the white working class, the only socioeconomic group for which that is true. This finding, which some have dubbed The White Death, has become perhaps the most talked-about recent finding in all of social science.

Deaton and Case are to be commended for their statistical analysis, which appears to be solid. The White Death seems to be real. The question therefore becomes: What can be done about it?

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog wanted to know, so they published a very good interview with Deaton and Case. Their most fundamental argument is that the labor market for unskilled labor has deteriorated badly, and this development has had an adverse impact on the lives of millions of people. I agree with Deaton and Case on this basic point. But Deaton’s specific policy recommendations left me very disappointed.

First, Deaton apparently believes that we need to get more people into college.

Anne and I, I think, differ a little bit on how much education is a solution for this. But it’s certainly clear there are lots of people who are not getting BAs who are capable of it. So we need to do a much better jobs [sic] of getting these into school.

Well, as someone who has spent more than 20 years in the university classroom, I can state with confidence that the problem in higher education is more nearly the exact opposite–too many, not too few, people pursuing BAs. America must have, at Deaton says, at least a few people “not getting BAs who are capable of it.” But there are vastly more people in the opposite situation; pursuing BAs who are not really capable. Higher education is already massively subsidized and over-expanded. Rather than expanding further, higher education needs to contract. More people should consider learning a trade or going to coding school.

On education, Deaton’s wife is more sensible:

Case: But it’s also the case here that there are people who don’t want a four-year BA. We’ve been around this block many times: We do need to think about how we want to train people to enter the 21st century labor force.

Deaton also wants to expand the welfare state.

Deaton: We haven’t really talked about how none of this is happening in Europe…The obvious difference is that the safety net is enormously more generous in Europe. And lot of people in their 50s who lose their jobs can go on retirement. You get a doctor’s certificate and you get paid pretty much your salary until you die.

Wait, if you’re in your 50s and you lose your job for economic reasons, then you can just talk a doctor into saying you’re disabled and collect your check for life, and Deaton thinks that’s a good thing? Am I misreading this, or did Deaton endorse disability fraud?

Deaton and Case also seem to believe that Americans are too reluctant to accept welfare.

Case: The other thing that makes it harder in America rather than Western Europe is that there really is a difference for a large swath of the population in how they feel about receiving government transfers. We’ve all been trained up on the idea that we are individuals and we take care of our families and our neighbors take care of theirs, and that’s the way we like it. It’s very hard to give somebody something when they see it as handout that they don’t want.

What Case says was true about America in the 1950s and 1960s. In those days, there was a strong conscientious aversion, as well as considerable social stigma, to accepting welfare. But I don’t think that’s true today. Half of American households receive some kind of government check, and 30 percent receive a “means tested” benefit, i.e., welfare. When I was a kid, that latter figure was only 7 percent.

Moreover, unlike Deaton and Case, I don’t believe the primary reason why working-class people are dying in America but not Europe is Europe’s somewhat more generous welfare state. Another obvious and possibly more relevant difference is that Europeans do not drink sugary Cokes in 30-ounce servings, nor do they consume Little Debbie Snack Cakes by the box. Maybe before we put millions more on the disability rolls, we should first try to get them to cut back on carbs.

There’s one other policy recommendation that I’ve been pushing. We’re spending about three trillion dollars a year on health care. And our life expectancy is going down. Whereas all these other countries are spending way less, and their life expectancy is going up. For me the implication is if we implemented single payer, we’d get rid of a lot of these costs. Not without screaming and yelling, of course, and not without goring a lot of oxen.

But the crucial thing is recognizing the extent to which these rising health care costs are responsible, at least in part, for the stagnant wages for people without a college degrees. If they’ve got an employer and they’ve got health care, their wages are getting pushed down by the employer paying for that health care. People don’t even realize this. They think it’s for free.

No doubt, the cost of health care is a huge problem, and we need reform. But single-payer is not the way to do it. Those single-payer countries that report lower costs are leaving out a lot of hidden costs. In particular, they don’t count the costs to individuals of suffering due to rationing of health care. They also don’t count the negative impact on the economy of taxes needed to fund the system.

I’m not a left-wing nut pushing for single-payer! It’s not because I like socialized medicine. It’s just because I think this is eating capitalism alive, and if we want a healthy capitalist society in America, we’ve got to get rid of this monster.

Shorter Deaton: “I’m for single-payer, but just don’t call me a left-wing nut!”

So to summarize, Deaton wants to expand higher education, make welfare more generous, and pay for nearly everybody’s health care. This amounts to a massive expansion of government. Deaton intends to help the ‘little guy,’ but as Dennis Prager likes to say, the bigger the government, the smaller the individual.

And Deaton wants all this additional spending when the federal government is already exposed to a $200 trillion fiscal gap. Where will the money come from?

As I said, Deaton’s policy advice is very disappointing.

The White Working Class: Dying from Drugs–and Poor Nutrition

In 2015, life expectancy in the United States declined for the first time in over 20 years. The decline was driven mostly by the continued increase since the late 1990s in the death rate among working class, non-hispanic whites–the largest group in the country, comprising over 40 percent of the population. The disturbing increase in the death rate among this group was first revealed in a landmark study by Nobel laureate Angus Deaton and Anne Case in 2015. Now Deaton and Case are back with a new study that provides additional evidence.

Deaton and Case attribute the rising death rate among working class whites to ‘deaths of despair’–drugs, alcohol, and suicide. And as the cause of the despair, Deaton and Case focus on worsening social and economic conditions.

The authors suggest that the increases in deaths of despair are accompanied by a measurable deterioration in economic and social wellbeing, which has become more pronounced for each successive birth cohort. Marriage rates and labor force participation rates fall between successive birth cohorts, while reports of physical pain, and poor health and mental health rise.

Case and Deaton document an accumulation of pain, distress, and social dysfunction in the lives of working class whites that took hold as the blue-collar economic heyday of the early 1970s ended, and continued through the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent slow recovery.

I suppose it’s natural for economists to focus on economic and social causes, like labor force participation and marriage rates. I’m sure these play a role in the despair of working class whites, but I don’t think they tell the whole story because ‘deaths of despair’ are only a fraction of the overall rise in deaths. In their Power Point presentation, Deaton and Case offer the following graph of the rate of ‘despair’ deaths for those aged 50-54.

As can be seen in the graph, ‘despair’ deaths–basically suicide and slow-motion suicide using drugs and alcohol–increased for both men and women by 70 or 80 per 100,000. All deaths, however, increased by a lot more than that.

For the same group of people, the death rate overall increased by about 200. Despair deaths therefore account for maybe 40 percent of the total increase. That’s a lot, but it raises the question, what accounts for the other 60 percent? My guess would be deaths from diabetes and other afflictions caused by obesity. Deaton and Case are skeptical of this explanation because among blacks, unlike whites, greater obesity has not increased the death rate. But other factors might be keeping down the black death rate despite high and rising obesity.

Deaton and Case are willing to concede (p.14) that the “contribution of obesity and diabetes to the mortality increases documented here clearly merits additional attention.” Then they proceed to pay it no additional attention, and focus throughout the rest of the paper on their social science hypotheses.

The words ‘food’, ‘diet’, ‘nutrition’ and related words appear nowhere in their 58-page paper, with the exception of a single reference on page 34 to “overeating.”

Deaton and Case are to be commended for calling attention to the deteriorating social and economic state of working-class whites. But the effect of very poor nutrition and eating habits also should not be ignored.

The University as Holiday Resort: Yale Edition

The new video by We the Internet does a great job explaining the reasons for the current parlous state of free speech and inquiry at American universities. The focus is on Yale University, but Yale’s pathologies apply generally to academia as a whole.

Silence U Part 2: What Has Yale Become?

At pjmedia.com, Richard Fernandez reviews the video and concludes that

Yale is becoming a kind of jail which hands out professional credentials to those hardy enough to serve out their term. Until then its inmates should be careful not to make waves. The wardens in Miltmore’s story are college administrators who’ve created a kind of politically correct kingdom where they — not the professors — are the rulers; where conformity not inquiry, is the most highly valued virtue.

But the university seems like a jail only to libertarian or conservative heretics who reject the ruling-class orthodoxy. To non-heretics the university offers a pleasant experience filled with parties and a wide range of recreational activities. Instead of a jail, the modern university more closely resembles an extended four-year religious summer camp, where instruction in the ruling-class catechism is combined with social and outdoor activities, a kind of holiday resort or sanatorium for the next generation of the ruling class. The appropriately descriptive term used in the video is “the gilded camp.”

As the video points out, the reason the university has become a kind of resort is “the customer service mentality.” As a result, a huge bureaucracy–“the administrative squid monster”–has been installed in order to “keep the fun going.” As a former Yale professor says, “It’s not about what we expect from you [the student], it’s about what we can do for you.”

The squid monster is primarily interested in feeding itself and is “not that committed to the search for truth.” Instead of a place of open inquiry, therefore, we get the religious summer camp, where lots of fun is available for everyone who does not question orthodoxy, but those who dare to rock the boat shall be persecuted as heretics.

The video tellingly contrasts the Yale of today with the Yale of 1974 which produced the famous Woodward Report in defense of free speech. A primary goal of today’s campus agitators is to ban ‘hate speech,’ but more than forty years ago the Woodward Report explicitly considered that argument and rejected it.

Shock, hurt, and anger are not consequences to be weighed lightly. No member of the community with a decent respect for others should use, or encourage others to use, slurs and epithets intended to discredit another’s race, ethnic group, religion, or sex. It may sometimes be necessary in a university for civility and mutual respect to be superseded by the need to guarantee free expression. The values superseded are nevertheless important, and every member of the university community should consider them in exercising the fundamental right to free expression.

We have considered the opposing argument that behavior which violates these social and ethical considerations should be made subject to formal sanctions, and the argument that such behavior entitles others to prevent speech they might regard as offensive. Our conviction that the central purpose of the university is to foster the free access of knowledge compels us to reject both of these arguments. They assert a right to prevent free expression. They rest upon the assumption that speech can be suppressed by anyone who deems it false or offensive. They deny what Justice Holmes termed ”freedom for the thought that we hate.” They make the majority, or any willful minority, the arbiters of truth for all. If expression may be prevented, censored or punished, because of its content or because of the motives attributed to those who promote it, then it is no longer free. It will be subordinated to other values that we believe to be of lower priority in a university.

As the video documents, however, today’s Yale has effectively dropped its defense of speech. When some professors tried to defend free expression, they came under withering assault from students and some faculty, and the administration did not defend them.

Rather than the Woodward Report, today’s Yale is more accurately summarized by the exclamations of ‘screeching girl.’

It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here!

OK! Now that’s settled, we can get back to roasting heretics marshmallows over the (gilded) campfire.

Music in Our Culture: How Much Has Been Lost

I liked the following youtube comment by “TLM”. It refers to a clip of Mario Lanza’s performance of “vesti la giubba”, from the 1959 film For the First Time.

Mario Lanza Vesti La Giubba 1958 Widescreen

Yeah, it’s easy to go through life in contemporary America and never even find out that opera and classical music exist. The stuff hardly gets any exposure, except as the occasional background music on a TV commercial. That’s a shame, because even though opera and classical are not for everyone, in fact probably not for most people, a lot more people might nonetheless appreciate this music if only they got more exposure to it.

At my gym the speakers constantly blare hip-hop and rap, even though my gym’s clientele does not generally fit the typical demographic for those genres. The other day, one of the members talked an employee into shutting the music off, and the silence was welcomed by the rest of us who were working out. Another member commented that he was sick of the fact that, at high school basketball games, the music is always that same sort of “garbage.”

It wasn’t always like this in America. During the 1950s, America boasted a thriving middle-brow culture. In 1955, attendance at classical music concerts exceeded attendance at major league baseball games. In the early ’60s, Leonard Bernstein’s classical concerts were broadcast on national network television, sometimes during prime time. Prime time Shostakovich is unimaginable today. Young people have no idea how much has been lost. Sad.

But getting back to Mario Lanza, he had an amazing voice, and is in fact my favorite tenor. Which is surprising, because he was just a movie singer and not a real professional opera singer, kind of like The Monkees weren’t a real group, but just played one on TV. Lanza’s breakthrough movie was The Great Caruso (1951) in which he played the legendary tenor. But Lanza, the actor playing Caruso, was actually a better singer than the legend himself, if you can believe it.

Unfortunately, Lanza had a problem with overeating, and died prematurely at just 38 years of age.

So-Called Experts Lost the Trust of the American People

Tom Nichols is a professor and soi-disant expert on foreign and defense policy. He is apparently upset that people aren’t paying him enough attention.

It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem. The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance—at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy—is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites–and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.

Well, people don’t as a rule lose confidence in experts that maintain a good track record of success. New England Patriots fans, for instance, generally retain a high degree of trust in the judgment of Bill Belichick. Only when supposed experts screw up do people start to lose confidence. And the fact is that, over the past 15 years or so, America’s experts and elites have put together an appalling record of failure that has resulted in real suffering for millions of ordinary people. Professor Glenn Reynolds offers a few of the more prominent examples.

It was experts that gave us the financial crisis, it was experts that gave us the Middle East meltdown, it was experts who gave us the obesity epidemic and the opioid crisis. And yet the experts pay no price for their failures, and cling bitterly to their credentials and self-esteem, while claiming that the problem lies in the anti-intellectualism of ordinary citizens.

Hard to improve on the pithy elegance of Reynolds’ statement, but I would like to point out just a few more of the recent failures of the elites, including the fact that many of the most eminent economists in the country said that Obamacare was going to be a resounding success.

A different group of experts at the FAA maintained until 2001 that airline passengers should not fight back against hijackers. Good thing the flight 93 passengers did not follow the advice of the experts.

Doctors spent decades telling Americans, “Stay out of the sun, you’ll get skin cancer.” Then half of Americans ended up deficient in Vitamin D, one of the most potent anti-cancer agents. Doctors also made statins the most-prescribed class of drugs in America, even though statins can cause severe unintended harm, and despite the fact that the lipid theory of heart disease on which the drugs are based has been all but discredited.

Over the last year and a half, every professional political prognosticator told us that Donald Trump would never win the GOP nomination, and then they told us that he could never win the presidency. They also told us that Brexit would never happen.

Given the record of failure, I sympathize with people wanting to “assert autonomy” from the credentialed-but-hapless experts. Trust is not given; it has to be earned. And the way to earn trust is through real success, not through lame-ass credentialism. Nichols’ piece should be re-titled “How the Experts Lost the Trust of the American People.”

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll close with a pic that sums up the state of ‘expertise’ in America today. But first, let’s introduce one of America’s foremost experts on nutrition and obesity.

Kelly Brownell is Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and is a professor of public policy. He also serves on the board of directors of the Duke Global Health Institute.

In 2006 Time magazine listed Brownell among “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” in its special Time 100 issue featuring those “.. whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.”…

Brownell has advised the White House, members of congress, governors, world health and nutrition organizations, and media leaders on issues of nutrition, obesity and public policy. He was cited as a “moral entrepreneur” with special influence on public discourse in a history of the obesity field and was cited by Time magazine as a leading “warrior” in the area of nutrition and public policy.

Brownell is the guy on the left.

Information Gatekeeping at the National Weather Service

One of the primary reasons why I’m sympathetic to libertarianism is that it presumes that people should be treated like adults, capable of making big decisions for themselves, rather than as children who need the guiding hand of the self-appointed social elites. Case in point would be the blizzard this week in the Northeast. My elderly mother in Massachusetts believed what the TV meteorologists were telling her about the storm. They predicted up to two feet of snow and likely power outages. My mom’s home has electric heat, and she didn’t want to risk getting caught without heating. So she packed a bag and drove across the state line to spend the night at my sister’s house in Rhode Island.

Turns out she needn’t have gone to all that trouble. Her town got only four or five inches of snow, much of which was washed away when the snow turned to rain. The meteorologists were not actually caught off guard by the lack of heavy snow. Even before the storm began, the models had already revised downward the predicted snowfall. But the meteorologists decided not to share that revision with the public; instead, they let stand the alarmist forecast.

Before the first snow fell, U.S. meteorologists realized there was a good chance the late-winter storm wasn’t going to produce giant snow totals in big Northeast cities as predicted.

But they didn’t change their forecasts because they said they didn’t want to confuse the public.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington held a conference call Monday afternoon about computer models that dramatically cut predicted snow amounts. They decided to keep the super snowy warnings.

“Out of extreme caution we decided to stick with higher amounts,” Greg Carbin, chief of forecast operations at the Weather Prediction Center in suburban Maryland, told The Associated Press. “I actually think in the overall scheme that the actions (by states and cities) taken in advance of the event were exceptional.”

On Monday, the weather service predicted 18 to 24 inches of snow in New York City. By late Tuesday afternoon, Central Park was covered with a little more than 7 inches of snow with rain and sleet still falling.

The meteorologists at the National Weather Service apparently think they can’t just level with us by telling us the real forecast and letting us decide for ourselves how to respond. They think the public is stupid and easily confused, and so they tell us only what they think we should hear. I guess it never occurred to these geniuses that over-hyping storms damages their credibility so that, eventually, when the alarming forecast happens to be true, people won’t believe it.

I have no problem with meteorologists making an honest mistake about a storm forecast. But not being on the level is something else altogether. The job of the National Weather Service is to forecast the weather, not to serve as gatekeepers of information.

The problem of not playing it straight, unfortunately, is not confined to the meteorologists, but permeates America’s credentialed and managerial classes. Surveys over the past few decades have shown that the public has lost trust in virtually all the major institutions in America–news media, schools, government, churches, banks, etc. The reason for this loss of trust is that the people eventually noticed that the elites weren’t leveling with them about all sorts of things, everything from over-hyping a late-winter storm to “Benghazi was caused by a youtube video.”

And that, incidentally, is how you get a President Trump.

I’m reminded of a scene from the dystopian Terry Gilliam movie Brazil, in which a government office displays a wall poster that reads, “Who can you trust?” When you can’t even trust the National Weather Service, a lot of Americans must be asking themselves that same question.

What Hath Feminism Wrought?

By some measures, women in America are doing better than ever. For every three men in college, there are four women. Women outnumber men in law school. There are more women working than ever, making more money than ever. We would right now have our first woman president if not for the fact that her opponent managed to run the table in the electoral college by winning a series of close state contests.

The legal regime governing marriage, reproduction, child support and custody totally favors women over men.

And yet, for all this presumed progress, women report being less happy, and exhibit more of the symptoms of despair. At least, that’s what I conclude from the fact that American women appear increasingly to be drowning their sorrows in alcohol.

Back in December, the Washington Post published a remarkable article about the rise in binge drinking among women, particularly white, middle-aged women. Here are just a few of the astonishing facts.

  • Every year more than one million women end up in hospital emergency rooms for alcohol related reasons. This number may involve some double counting, as the same woman may be admitted to the hospital more than once, but the number nonetheless seems appallingly high.
  • Since 1997, binge drinking by white women has increased 40%.
  • Since 1999, alcohol-related deaths among middle-aged white women have soared by 130%.

The Post blames the problem on alcohol advertising, particularly advertising on social media targeted at women. The trend in binge drinking, however, started long before social media became a thing. I suspect the problem runs much deeper than advertising. Consider the fact that also drug overdoses have increased, particularly among middle-aged, white women. The drug overdoses likely have little to do with advertising and more to do with despair.

This same cohort of middle-aged white women has also exhibited a significantly higher suicide rate. From 1999 to 2014,

the age-adjusted suicide rate for women increased by 45%, while the rate for men increased by 16%.

The suicide rate increased for women of all ages, but the spike was especially pronounced for women aged 45-64.

The rise in alcohol and drug related deaths would seem to be of a piece with the higher rate of suicides, since alcohol and drugs often serve as methods of slow-motion suicide. One way or another, a lot more women are killing themselves.

What has happened to middle-aged American women? Historically, only about ten percent of 35-year-old women were unmarried. Now, 40 percent of 35-year-old women are unmarried, and that figure just keeps rising. Could the lack of support from family explain the despair among middle-aged women?

Many will say that the problems facing women are caused by ‘the patriarchy’ and we therefore need to double-down on feminism.

Maybe. But in the bad old days, before the triumph of feminism, women reported higher levels of happiness and weren’t succumbing nearly as often to the pathologies of despair.