You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

MY DAUGHTER - OR MY DUCATS? OR MY DAUGHTER? Steven E Landsburg’s “Everyday Economics” column at has a two-parter on why (NB: not whether) having daughters increases the risk of a couple divorcing. (Full disclosure: I have two sons.)

Landsburg offers some plausible explanations: daughters not only correlate to a higher divorce rate, but also to a lower re-marriage rate (among widows as well as divorcées). He seems, though, even after posting a follow-up that involves a partial retraction, to miss the 800-pound gorilla in the living room. That is, boys are harder work to raise. They are more active and more trouble.

Landsburg gets it partly right when he notes that a single mother with daughters might be reluctant to remarry for fear of exposing them to a potentially predatory stepfather. The flipside though is that a single mother with sons might be more likely to remarry - to accept overtures from Bob or Joe at the office, because even though she’s not passionately in love with him he seems decent enough - because she wants a stepfather for her sons. While step-families are fraught with emotional minefields (refer Brothers Grimm), a new man can at least do things with stepsons - take them to sports, go fishing, etc. My limited experience with divorced mothers of daughters, though, is that mother and daughter(s) tend to become even closer emotionally. A new male emotional support for mum is not as urgently sought and may threaten the bond with her daughter. It's all Steve Biddulph-101.

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