The first topic: Work profiles, gender and marriage.
One day in my public policy course last fall, we discussed an article about the labor force and gender in the US. Since I seem to have tossed most materials from last semester, I'll summarize. The article showed several different long-run work profiles: one that included working full time (40 hours/week) from age 25 to 65 and the other included a mix of part time work and unemployment from 25-40ish followed by more full time work until retirement around age 65. Then, the article gendered these profiles, saying that the first profile was likely to be men and the second was likely to represent women (showing the likelihood of staying at home with children before committing longer hours to work after children have grown).
The study found that women aged 55+ who followed work profile 1 (full time 25-65) were 50% more likely to be divorced or never married.
I was pretty surprised by this statistic, but our class had an easy time coming up with a few examples. I came home intrigued and added to the lists. I've made two categories for American women over 55 based on marital status (with assumptions about their work profiles). So far, the list speaks pretty strongly to the singletonness of career-oriented older American women:
Profile 1 and Married:
Ruth Bader Ginsberg
Sandra Day O'Connor
Profile 1 and Divorced or Single:
Carol Moseley Braun
One thing to consider about these lists is that these women are all very public figures (politicians and celebrities included), which means their private life is rather public, and this can influence marital choices. To be fair, I've made another list of people I know where these ratios are pretty similar. I'm always looking for additions...
So, what does this mean? These lists do not make claims on causality, and I'll refrain from the obvious one (if you're a woman and you work full time, you're not going to end up married). There are too many variables for this to be summarized so generically. For example, career-oriented women might be less likely to choose to be married in the first place. The generational issue is at play here as well; married men in this older generation may be less willing to share domestic work duties abandoned by a career-oriented wife. However, the fact that the second group is so much larger, if nothing else, is intriguing.