Older women marriage myth exposed
(5/26/06) -- Women over 40 are "more likely to be killed by a terrorist" than find a husband.
That infamous line from a Newsweek article about the poor marriage prospects of educated women older than 30 incited a firestorm when it hit newsstands in 1986.
Twenty years later, there's encouraging news for single women past the age of 30: It's not too late to meet Prince Charming after all.
Jeffrey Zaslow, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, tracked down 10 of the 14 single women featured in "The Marriage Crunch," and found eight had found husbands and were still married to them. Two remained single by choice.
"If they want to get married, women can get married," Zaslow said.
"The Marriage Crunch" was based on a study by Harvard and Yale researchers that projected college-educated women had a 20 percent chance of getting married if they were still single at 30, a 5 percent chance at age 35, and just a 2.6 percent chance at age 40. The article seemed to reinforce the most old-fashioned ideas of women's place in society, and both infuriated and struck fear into the hearts of women across the country.
"Since I was in eighth grade when the Harvard article came out, I have always lived under the assumption that as the years crept on, I might actually get struck by lightning or nailed by a terrorist," said Leslie Bywater Bishop, who married 13 days ago at the age of 32, in a posting on "Good Morning America's" message board.
"As someone who always dreamed of getting married, those statistics did worry me a bit," she wrote.
Fact Vs. Fiction
Christine Stroebel-Scimeca was a 30-year-old financial and estate planner at Morgan Stanley and living in Chicago when she was featured in the Newsweek article in 1986.
When she read "The Marriage Crunch," she was stung and said that she worried about the projections from time to time. However, she said she never totally believed she was doomed to spinsterhood.
"Everybody wants to be happy and find their soul mate, but I guess I figured it would happen if I wanted it to," she said.
A study by the U.S. Census Bureau published shortly after the Newsweek article supported Stroebel-Scimeca's gut instinct. The census found the probability of college-educated women marrying at age 30 was 60 percent, and 23 percent at age 40.
Marriage prospects are even better for educated women today, Zaslow said. He pointed to a new study from the University of Washington that found women with professional degrees were now more apt to be married than women with only college degrees.
Stroebel-Scimeca married at age 40, and is now the stepmother to two children.
"I met a guy at the grocery store in Lincoln Park," she said. "I decided it was time for me to start looking for somebody new and start thinking out of the box. I decided to take the bull by the horns and ask him out."
Is Waiting Better?
Stroebel-Scimeca said she believed women should never run into marriage.
"I think people who are a bit more mature may make better decisions," she said. "I have lots of friends who married young who are divorced now. I think that happens less with people who marry later."
Several "Good Morning America" viewers agree.
"I think by meeting my husband at a later age, I had a clearer understanding of who I was looking for," said a "GMA" message board posting by Tricia Saulinier Littlejohn, who met her husband just before she turned 30. "He fit the bill, and we were married a year and a half later. Our 5th anniversary is this summer."
In another posting, Brenda Young said she had married her husband at age 43.
"We've been married for over 7 years and I love him with all my heart," she wrote. "Sometimes you have to wait to find happiness and I'm sure glad I waited!"
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