Why do people marry less?
One reason, I have argued, is that for those who are poor enough to be influenced, the welfare state offers women who want children an alternative to a financially-supporting man. In Britain, at least, it has offered cash and a greatly increased chance of free or subsidised housing, not to mention the free healthcare and free education for children which everybody is offered. But there is another possible reason, affecting those at the other end of the income scale: the increased earning power of women. I guess this is particularly important for those women who are not so determined to have children and can pursue their careers without interruption but it might also be significant for some who have children, too.
The quote below is from the Economist’s recent cover story on how Asian women are staying single.
Education changes women’s expectations. Among Thai women who left school at 18, one-eighth were still single in their 40s; but among university graduates, the share was a fifth. A survey in Beijing in 2003 found that half of women with a monthly income of 5,000-15,000 yuan (roughly $600-1,800, an indicator of university education) were not married. Half said they did not need to be, because they were financially independent. South Koreans call such people “golden misses”. “Why should I have to settle down to a life of preparing tofu soup, like my mother?” asks one.