The study, which only evaluated opposite-sex couples, looked at “sociodemographic characteristics of unmarried women’s potential (or synthetic) spouses who resemble the husbands of otherwise comparable married women.”
The study obtained data from the American Community Survey to compare the traits of women’s ideal husbands to the characteristics that men in the dating pool actually have. To do so, the researchers first matched single women in the study to married women with similar demographics, before matching the single women to “synthetic spouses” who possessed characteristics similar to the husbands of the corresponding married women.
The researchers thus assumed that demographically similar women seek the same traits in a partner. The researchers then compared the “synthetic” or “dream” husbands to real, single men in the US dating pool.
The study found that black women in particular have fewer potential marital partners, as do unmarried women with high or low socioeconomic status. In addition, the study found that women’s ideal husbands had average incomes 58% higher than the unmarried men “currently available to unmarried women.” The “dream” husbands were also “30% more likely to be employed” and “19% more likely to have a college degree.”
“One explanation for the declines in marriage is the putative shortage of economically attractive partners for unmarried women to marry,” the study, which was conducted between 2012 and 2017, concludes.
"Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction," lead author Daniel Lichter is quoted as saying by multiple sources. "Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women's education levels on average now exceed their male suitors."
According to the Pew Research Center, about half of US adults are married today, which represents a big decrease from 1960, when 72% of Americans were married. The analysis, which was conducted in 2017, also found that about 59% of Americans who have never been married say they haven’t found the right person, while 40% said they are not financially stable enough to be married.