Is the birth control pill the reason so few men are graduating from college?

“…The existence of other women who are a little freer with their favors weakens the bargaining power of the Madonnas, and means that men have less incentive to marry. Some men will not bother at all, feeling that they can get all they want from a playboy lifestyle. or they delay marriage until middle age, cutting down on the pool of marriageable men and increasing male bargaining power.

As we have seen, the rational response is for women to go to college, bringing them both better prospects in the job market and better prospects in the marriage market. Meanwhile, the more capable women become of looking after children by themselves, the less men need to bother. It’s a textbook case of free-riding: With highly educated women in excess supply, men have realized they can get sex, and even successful offspring, without ever moving too far from the recliner and the potato chips. Statistics seem to bear this out. Nowadays four U.S. women graduate from a university for every three men, and this is not a particularly American phenomenon: In fifteen out of seventeen rich countries for which the data are available, more women are graduating than men. The most educated generation of men in the United States was born just after World War 2 and graduated in the mid-1960’s — male graduation rate dipped after that, and have not yet returned to that peak. The rational choice perspective suggests it is probably not coincidental that this decline set in roughly when women got hold of the contraceptive pill.

This is from Tim Harford’s very interesting book The Logic of Life.

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