Low-income women were most likely to be celibate in 2018

A couple weeks ago, I shared on Twitter some new data from the General Social Survey suggesting that the portion of young Americans who reported no sexual activity rose rapidly in 2018. Chris Ingraham used the same data for a very widely shared Washington Post article making a few arguments for why. Most of the discussion of this phenomenon has focused on the increasing sexlessness of young men, and its association with the “incel” online phenomenon. Michelle Goldberg, for example, on the New York Times podcast The Argument, argued this week that sexless young men “are the alt-right..young men need to step up, and I don’t think it’s the job of young women to make men better, or tame and civilize men.”

It’s worth noting, though, that among the 18 to 34 year olds that are the focus of this discussion, the group most likely to report no sexual activity in 2018 are low-income women, at a rate that seems to have increased comparably to young men:

under34diffbyincome2

This seems to me to go along with the idea that we are not seeing a specific disintegration of young men’s individual personal and sexual efficacy (as opposed to everyone’s personal and sexual efficacy), or even a general turn to “hypergamy” as is often claimed, so much as a deterioration in courtship and pairing, accompanying the increasingly asymptotic retreat from marriage.

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7 thoughts on “Low-income women were most likely to be celibate in 2018

  1. We spent the last half of the twentieth century crafting a package of human rights that was designed, at least in part, to lower the birthrate.

    In general, I am skeptical of any kind of social engineering on this scale, but it is hard to avoid the impression that it might have actually worked, *far* beyond the dreams of the scientific optimists who came up with the idea.

    I also find it darkly humorous that once this most ambitious project of the mighty twentieth century has finally come to pass, everyone is panicking.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think about this a lot too. I wish I knew how to test my idea more thoroughly.

        I’m not quite sure whether the cultural explanation I posited above is contrary or complementary to the more biological one I suggested in that Tweet. I’m not all that surprised to see marriage rates or sexual activity rates going down, since I thought the mid-twentieth century was anomalous in that regard, but the suddenness of this change is surprising to me.

        I’ve become convinced that most environmental explanations for behavior are lacking in power, but I suspect that might be because the time scale is off. Looking over the past 100 years at the crime rate in England proper, it has gone up something like 3 orders of magnitude, even accounting for population growth and demographic change. You can’t blame genes for that.

        The time scale is too short for selection or population replacement to matter, so *something* else made England crime-ridden, but if you look from year to year, all you would see is noise. That seems a little less true of this GSS data.

        Liked by 1 person

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