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Volume 96, Issue 2

GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueLETTERS
Upon what meat have you fed that you can…

Irreconcilable differences

I was disturbed to read such an inaccurate, uncritical (in the U of C sense), and politically biased article about the research of Linda Waite (“Healthy, Wealthy, and Wed,” October/03) by Amy M. Braverman.

First, the story makes no distinction between the results of the research for men and for women. But the survey actually shows that while men are better off whether the marriage is happy or unhappy, women suffer greater ill effects and ill health when a marriage is unhappy. For a woman, then, getting out of a bad marriage may be a healthier choice.

Second, women and children are financially better off in marriage—not a new finding—but it is because of men’s greater earning power. Another conclusion from the same research could be not that women should be married, but that women (and enlightened men) should continue to fight for equal opportunities and equal pay for equal work.

Finally, if one accepts the conclusions that marriage is a healthier way of life and the same benefits do not accrue merely from cohabitation, then the research serves as an argument in favor of gay marriage. The Bush administration’s use of the research to push marriage onto poor and struggling women while continuing to oppose gay marriage is blatantly hypocritical and a clear misuse of scholarship to further a particular political agenda.

In the University of Chicago Magazine, of all places, I would have expected a more critical and balanced report.

Ellen Kirschner, AB’73
Valley Stream, New York

Your article on Linda Waite’s research and the people who are using it for political purposes to promote marriage seems to ignore the possibility that the marriage-promoters are mixing up cause and effect. The data you present—at least, as you present them; I haven’t read Waite—could just as well suggest not that marriage makes people happy, but that happy people have an easier time dealing with the challenges of being married.

They may, for example, be more impervious to pain, annoyance, boredom, disappointment, and what some not naturally monogamous people would perceive as the constraint of being committed to a single sexual partner. Conversely, happy people may also be more emotionally able to truly enjoy whatever good things the arrangement may have to offer them.

I also wonder whether there could be some interference in the data from stoicism? Someone who claims to be happy may simply be less demanding of life, in general and independent of the whole marriage issue, than someone who reports being less than happy. This uncomplaining and undemanding attitude could in turn be implicated at some level in the decision to stay married.

Suzanne Erfurth, AB’75

The University of Chicago Magazine welcomes letters on its contents or on topics related to the University. Letters must be signed and may be edited for space and clarity. We ask readers to keep correspondence to 300 words or less. Write:

Editor, University of Chicago Magazine,
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