Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"Marriage Benefit Imbalance" - Beating a Horse that Refuses to Die

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a successful book justifying her divorce, Eat, Pray, Love. Having written about how terrible marriage is for women, she had to write a new book, Committed, to justify her second marriage. Family scholars have been worked up about this book because Gilbert claims that sociologists take as a fact “the ‘Marriage Benefit Imbalance’—a tidy name for an almost freakishly doleful conclusion: that women generally lose in the exchange of marriage vows, while men win big.”

Not true. Family sociologists now show the many ways that marriage benefits women as well as men. Gilbert reaches back to some of the most discredited findings in family sociology to support her conclusion. She cites Jesse Bernard's claim that marriage makes women depressed in the book Bernard wrote to justify her divorce.

What is most striking to me about Gilbert's ambition in her new book is that she misses the main point of marriage as a social institution: to protect and raise children.


Anonymous said...

Gilbert is 40 years old. She may not be interested in children in this point of her life - especially given the dreary findings you posted yesterday!

Anonymous said...

Just because centrists and conservatives may find it politically injurious to admit to the existance of the Marriage Benefit Imbalance does not negate its existence or its truthfulness. Though I find Gilbert's assessment of the imbalance to be a tad simplistic (the entirety of "Committed" is rather simplistic, especially when compared with the relative depth of its predecessor), I don't think we can completely discredit her claims. The imbalance is still a legitimate theory in sociological study, though current discussions and research surrounding it are more comprehensive than the older studies from which Gilbert draws some of her conclusions. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Gruntled said...

Which elements of Gilbert's claim of unbalanced benefits do you think are well supported?