Monday, March 15, 2010

Finally. A Scientific Explanation of the Singles Problem

Srugim, the hit TV show in Israel about religious singles in Jerusalem prompted me to think about the singles issue. Some call it a crisis, some call it a problem. Regardless of what you call it, there are more and more older singles out there.

Pop quiz: Are there more single men or women out there?

Every person whom I've asked this question has the same answer: There are lots more single women out there, than men.

Every singles shabbaton we've helped host, has always seen lots more men than women. My wife almost wouldn't let me come home till I registered some single men for one shabbaton (friends from work), which was hosted in our community -- since the shabbaton was almost hopelessly lopsided by an abundance of single women, and a dearth of single men.

Luckily for me, I begged a friend to come to the shabbaton, and he ended up getting married to someone he met there, and I was able to come back home...

Unsatisfactory answers I've heard to explain this phenomena are:

In Israel, men die in the army, so there are more women than men.
I don't believe that so many men are dying in combat/training on an annual basis as to actually impact the religious singles scene.

In Israel, more men die in car accidents than women.
I don't know if that's true, and even if it were, I doubt its statistically relevant enough on an annual basis to actually impact the religious singles scene.

So what's the root cause?

Religious men typically marry women younger than them -- even a few years younger.

Due to natural growth, there are more children born each year than the previous one.

As an example (not using real numbers, this is only to explain the point).

Children Born 1985 -- 1000; 500 boys, 500 girls
Children Born 1986 -- 1010; 505 boys, 505 girls
Children Born 1987 -- 1020; 510 boys, 510 girls
Children Born 1988 -- 1030; 515 boys, 515 girls
Children Born 1989 -- 1040; 520 boys, 520 girls

Therefore, assuming men marry women who are 3 years younger than them, in the year 2008, the 500 men that are 23 years old have a pool of 515 women to marry who are aged 20.

The following year, 505 men aged 23 will have a pool of 520 girls who are aged 20.

Over time, as men continue to marry women younger than them, and there is a natural growth increase in children, there will be more and more women without anyone to marry.

Without anyone to marry?

A possible solution could be;

As a society, we need to encourage women to also marry men their own age, or even men younger than them.

We shouldn't wait till singles are already late in their 30s, 40s or 50s...rather we should already encourage women in the 20s to consider marrying men their own age or younger.

Otherwise, the current situation will continue to grow and grow.


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JLan said...

There's an additional factor here which hasn't been discussed- do more men go "off the derech" and/or do more women become observant (to whatever level is applicable)? This is also a big question, and I don't have an answer for it.

Anonymous said...

As a society, we need to encourage women to also marry men their own age, or even men younger than them.

C'mon. The singles crowd has never listened to society when it tells them to stop being so choosy and just get married already. So why would you expect that they'll listen to this?

Hersh said...

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

People set their friends up all the time -- perhaps the recommendation is more for the matchmakers?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hersh: Thanks for that video!

It identifies the same issue (but my post doesn't have the dramatic music in the background).

Additionally -- it only suggests "closing the age gap" -- I think we need to go further than that, because we'll never full close it, ever.

If we reverse the age gap, then things have a chance of equalizing.

Bruce Krulwich said...

This has been discussed for a few years among chareidi writers, such as this article, and was declared fact by the kol koreh here.

But as I once commented here it's not really accurate, because a slight percentage more boys are born than girls out of most population samples. So it takes a several year average age gap to account for the singles scene after compensating for the skewed birth rates.

In any case, I think we should encourage our kids to marry with a lot of thought and consideration about the person they're marrying, and not about ages.

ProfK said...

Another factor that may apply generally and to those more to the right religiously is that of when women are encouraged to get married. If you are marrying off women 20 and under those women are going to be looking for men older than they are who can already make a living and support a family.

My experience as a shadchan at least anecdotally shows that women are more amenable to marrying someone their own age or even younger (depending on how old the woman is). It's the men who have more of a hangup about marrying an older woman or even one their own age.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Dov; Its definitely not about age, yet its been programmed into our society that women expect older men...and therefore people won't even bother matchmaking older women to men (if if they may be the perfect match)

yitz said...

My problem is this:

By your logic, in previous generations when men were much older than the women they married, the problem should have been significantly worse. (40 yr old men marrying 12 and 13 yr old women)

By your logic it would reach a point where huge portions of the female population would go unmarried -- was this ever the case historically?

I think the answer to that question presents an alternative solution, the age-old (pre-Rabbeinu Gershom)solution: one man can marry more than one wife.

That would very quickly create a situation where there aren't enough women to go around. and single men have to compete much more to woo a wife. (and would (possibly) more readily seek out a wife of any age at all)

It would also probably lead to more childbirths. (between inter-wife competition,(read:Yaakov had 4 wives and 12 sons, Yitzhak and Avraham who had 1.3 wives (on average) each had 2 sons) and the fact that virtually all women would be married)

Just saying.

ps. I'm not suggesting that *I* should marry more than one wife -- my wife would kill me :)
pps. I'm only trying to put this idea forward to see if i can achieve a lower approval rating than Joe Settler (jk)

Soccer Dad said...

There's a reason that men usually marry younger women: women mature faster. I'd guess that most young women would be ready to run a household by 19 or 20; would most young men? From what I see, I don't think so. (I know that was the case with me.) Obviously there are exceptions, but when you're dealing with trends what happens in most cases is important.

Also, I'm not convinced that the birth rates for boys and girls are the same. Except in societies where baby girls are aborted in large numbers, there are more girls born than boys. (I believe that Jonathan Rosenblum wrote that it's 114 to 100 in the frum community. I think worldwide it's about 108 to 100.)

Marrying someone the same age is likely to lead to more unhappy marriages and just leave a different subset unmarried.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Marrying someone the same age is likely to lead to more unhappy marriages and just leave a different subset unmarried.

Do you have any data to back that up? Even anecdotal evidence?

Granted women do mature earlier than men, but maybe by their mid-20s, its not such an issue?

Yitz: I read your comment scratching my head, till I got to the PS's - LOL :)

Seriously though, natural growth through the ages was less of an issue due to pogroms, inquisitions, crusades, infant mortality, etc.

JoeSettler said...

pps. I'm only trying to put this idea forward to see if i can achieve a lower approval rating than Joe Settler (jk)

Yitz: I've got an 84% approval rating. The only people that don't like me are the Leftists. (Who knew we had 39 of them reading the blog - they must have called in their friends to vote).

Anonymous said...

Is JoeSettler even married?

His wife must have a huge tolerance level for bulls#$%

JoeSettler said...

How did I get dragged into this conversation? What are you? One of the 39?

I'm married and making sure to do my part to replace what Hitler destroyed.

What's your problem exactly?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if more men go OTD, but it's true that more males are conceived, more men are born (though the ratio is lower than the conception ratio), and more men die in infancy. Then factor in the higher rate of male neurological disorders such as autism, Asperger's and ADHD.

The chareidi acceptance of the age gap problem makes me want to reject it in a knee-jerk way, but I haven't done a population study to prove or refute it.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone looked into Minhagim or other religious factors which make two Jews who should otherwise get married, end up not getting married?

Gila said...

To echo ProfK--if we are focusing on the issue of older singles (not the 22 year olds) is the guys who tend to have the age hang-up.

Regarding how men used to marry much younger women and how does that work with the numbers...a lot of the women died in childbirth, and the men would marry again.

Heshy Fried said...

I don't buy it - the age gap theory has been around for several years, but since the Jews are having less kids than they did 30 or 40 years ago you would think it would have been a problem 40 years ago - especially due to the fact that men married even younger women. Why is it just a problem in the last 10 years?

annie said...

I think a lot of the problem lies in the religious boys' long army service, particularly those who do hesder - 5 years in all - or those who do officers courses, which add on another year or 2 at the minimum. Meanwhile the girls have done their one or 2 years sherut leumi, have studied, and are ready to get married. They have seen a bit of the world and are more mature in a lot of ways than their male counterparts.

I'm not sure where this argument goes from here, but it's something that must be taken into account in the religious community.

Factor in also many boys studying many more years in yeshiva and you get a big subset of young males who are not ready financially or emotionally to get married.

PS: as an aside, my elder son (hesdernik) got married to a girl 4 years older than himself (not a shidduch. A lovematch born out of the hitnatkut of all things). Several of his friends married older women too.

Shira said...

Did I ever tell you about the guy I tried to set up, who told the girl's side that he was "almost" 30 - he was rounding down.

Or the fellow from Brooklyn who for years preferred girls - any girls - in college, over more appropriate possibilities? Finally at age 35 he told me he gave up on his hangup about what others would say about the kallah's age at his wedding.

Which I believe is the key: "What will everyone else say" or more subtly, "What does everyone else think about who's appropriate for me?" And that gets people to be inappropriately picky, and subconsciously influenced toward the more typical set-ups.

With magazines, technology - most people learn very quickly what their society thinks is a perfect spouse - it's just not their perfect spouse.

Anonymous said...

If we weren't so concerned with "what the Goyim think", we would simply accept the Torah's permission to marry more than one wife. For those who are capable of treating them halachically correctly, it is a proper solution. Not that I want more than one mother-in-law...

Anonymous said...

annie, supposedly the same problem is happening in NY, so any Israel only explanations probabbly are the wrong explanations.

Lurker said...

Anonymous: If we weren't so concerned with "what the Goyim think", we would simply accept the Torah's permission to marry more than one wife.

It's too bad that Rabbeinu Gershom is no longer with us; you could have written him a letter reprimanding him for being "so concerned with 'what the Goyim think'".

keren said...

What Annie said does not seem so accurate to me, as even though boys have a very long course (army, yeshiva etc), more and more seem to be getting married young, while they are in the army, without taking into account whether they are able to support themselves.
All around we see boys of 21, 20 and 22 married while they are still in their army service.
However, more boys seem to be marrying girls exactly of their age, or just one year older.

Another question, is who will support these young people getting married?

Parents feel so pressurized when hearing about the singles problem you mentioned here, that they let their very very young kids marry, so at least they won't get left on the shelf.

(So other side of this coin, which can be written about another time, is very very young couples getting married, while the boy is in the middle of army service, and groups of girls living like "grass widows" with their husbands coming home once every 2 weeks, e.g. there is a group in Eli)

Anonymous said...

JoeSettler- I'd like to see you tell Commenter Abbi that she's a Leftist.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: Commenter Abbi is not a Leftist.

Why are you attacking her?

What the heck does your comment have to do with this post?

Grow up.

miriamp said...

Anonymous wrote: If we weren't so concerned with "what the Goyim think", we would simply accept the Torah's permission to marry more than one wife. For those who are capable of treating them halachically correctly, it is a proper solution.

What does this have to do with "what the Goyim think?" "The Goyim" think extramarital affairs and out-of-wedlock children etc. are all just fine, at least, that's the impression I get from watching the news.

As for the multiple wife solution, well, I'm not sharing!

I'm not helping the crisis in other ways either, so far our children run 3 girls for every boy, and another family in town has 8 girls and only 1 boy -- I think of other families that are similar, although I do know one girl (HS age) with 8 brothers.

Kamagra said...

this explanation are very interesting, when we are single there are many things that pass in our mind, sometimes the people feel stress because are single.
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