Upon what meat have you fed
that you can…
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
In the University of Chicago Magazine,
of all places, I would have expected a more critical and balanced
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
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
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