Study Says Women Pursue Careers For Same Reasons They Did In 12th Century

Is there a chance you chose your career path because you worried the dating pool wasn’t very strong in your city so you figured, I’m going to have to financially support myself for longer than I thought? It is a little depressing to think that potential marriage partners could influence our career choices this much but according to a new study, this was happening in the 12th century and it js happening now. This study indicates that the mating market is just as big a factor in a woman’s career choice as the job market.

The paper, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, says: “A substantial portion of women in Northern Europe achieved economic parity with men during the late 12th century.” This “relatively short-lived” phenomenon (it had largely faded away 100 years later) occurred during a period when there was “a scarcity of marriageable men,” the researchers write.

Okay, but that was the 12th century. Women hung out in cloisters for fun (though they could inherit land.) A woman named Hrotsuit was the hottest writer around. But this is 2012! Haven’t things changed? Apparently not much. Though the phenomena faded, it apparently came back and stuck around.

To test for it today, the researchers examined three sets of statistics for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia: The ratio of unmarried men to unmarried women ages 15 to 44; the ratio of men to women in 10 high-paying jobs, including chief executive, pharmacist and lawyer; and the average maternal age at first birth.

They found “a strong relation between sex ratio and the percentage of women in the highest paying jobs. As the number of marriageable men decreased, the percentage of women in the highest paying jobs increased. In addition, as the number of marriageable men decreased, women had fewer children, and when women did have children, they had them at later ages.”

The “local mating ecology,” impacts the career choices of women, except for those who don’t doubt their ability to find a long-term partner, according to the study. So unless you are super, duper confident that your future husband will just show up at your door someday you may become a doctor just in case you’ll be single for a while.

It is an interesting way of looking at things. I mean it is refreshing to know that women now do have the option of supporting themselves which was not so much the case for Hrotsuit and women for centuries after her. But is it because we are worried that we will not find a suitable partner that we are pursuing more lucrative professions or are we just approaching marriage differently?

But on the other hand I’d rather think of it in terms of women are pursuing jobs, lucrative or not, that they want irregardless of the mating ecology. Women don’t need husbands in the way that they used to which could be a major factor as to why the number of single adults rose to 50%  in 2010, compared to 33% in 1950, according to census data. Kate Bolick who wrote “All The Single Ladies” for The Atlantic talks about the fact that women don’t need to “marry up” like they used to. Now women are the “up.” Women may also be looking at men differently now because they don’t have to just think “Does this person have good reproductive potential?” Bolick wrote:

“Everywhere I turn, I see couples upending existing norms and power structures, whether it’s women choosing to be with much younger men, or men choosing to be with women more financially successful than they are (or both at once). “

We earn our own money now while 50 years ago, that really wasn’t possible. And we actually don’t even men to have children now with the amazing invention of IVF.  But this study is saying women are only becoming bankers and lawyers because the dating pool may suck. It kinda kills career aspiration for women if we make it all about our dating choices.

Photo: Everett Collection/

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