Marriage Makes the Man: Reflections from Brad Wilcox’s March 2015 Lecture

bride-690292_1280 (1)Brad Wilcox opened his lecture at the 2015 Wheatley Roundtable on the Family, Marriage Makes the Man, by providing an example of what he believes to be a typical American  man’s thoughts with regards to marriage. He quoted 37-year-old male Doug Taulbee from Ohio who said, “Prior to getting married, I really didn’t have a care in the world.” Then once he got married, Taulbee said, “I had to step up and think about something besides myself and start taking care of them. It’s my responsibility to [work hard] once I took the vows of marriage.” [i] I believe Taulbee’s words perfectly describe Wilcox’s theory of how marriage makes men work harder, smarter, and more successfully.

Brad Wilcox emphasized the notion that marriage is more than just a piece of paper for men. He pointed out how marriage plays a transformative role in the lives of men by not only making them work harder and smarter but by leading them to spend less time with friends and attending bars less. Instead, married men spend more time with kin and attend church more frequently.

Wilcox explained what it means for married men to work harder and smarter by showing statistics found by his colleague Elizabeth Gorman. Gorman helped lead a Harvard study that compared single men to married men in the work field. She found that married men are much less likely to quit their current job prior to lining up a new job at only 4%, while 14% of single men are likely to do the same. I believe this shows how married men are more cautious and will take less risks in order to maintain a stable household. In addition, the results from this study showed that married men are less likely to be fired. She found that only 7% of married men are likely to be fired, while 17% of single men are likely to be let go from their job. I find these percentage increases with regard to single men to prove that married men not only work harder, but more strategically. Therefore, they have a higher probability of finding and maintaining a job.

The data Wilcox provided with regard to the income differences between married men and single men really stuck out to me. I never realized how marriage can make such a significant difference in terms of income earned by an individual; however, upon seeing the statistics, I can understand why married men tend to make more money than single men. This is most likely due to the idea that marriage encourages men to work harder and more efficiently so they can provide for their loved ones. Wilcox analyzed statistics found in a 2004 study done by Antonovics and Town, which researched twins and the influence of marriage on their lives. The study showed that “married twins earned 26% more than their identical twins who were not married.” [i] I believe these income differences are most likely due to the added responsibility gained after marriage. Although I am not married yet, I imagine such newfound responsibilities to include the responsibility to make sufficient money in order to provide healthy meals and comfortable shelter for one’s family.

Wilcox also pointed out how marriage “closes the horizon” on one woman, which helps men focus on providing a stable lifestyle for themselves and their families. Not only are these men putting an end to spending time dating, impressing women, and seeking new partners, but they are settling down with a partner who has interest in their success. Furthermore, wives are not just interested in their husbands’ success; they also “encourage husbands to stop risky behaviors that can harm workplace performance.” [i] I personally believe that when men are married, they are to take on the role as a provider and protector over their families. Thus, they should be all the more inclined to work harder and smarter so that they can meet the material needs of their family members.

My belief regarding the role of husband most likely stems from the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The First Presidency and Quorum  of the Twelve Apostles have instructed in The Family: A Proclamation to the World that, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” [ii] This inspired message has helped me better understand my future role as a husband and father. I know that marriage comes with responsibilities specific to both the husband and wife. As I stated above, I consider those responsibilities for men to entail becoming a provider for their families.

Wilcox used the words of sociologist Steven Nock to expound on the responsibility a married man undertakes after marriage. In Marriage in Men’s Lives from 1998, Nock argued, “marriage is one of the last rites of passage into manhood remaining in society.” Wilcox added more to this idea by saying, “marriage engenders an ethic of familial responsibility among men as they transition into new roles of husband and father.” [i] I believe this is especially true because upon marriage, men think more about the needs of others rather than their own desires. This goes back to Taulbee’s quote in the very beginning. Taulbee pointed out that prior to marriage he “did not have a care in the world.” However, after marriage, Taulbee found himself not just only considering his own needs but thinking about how he could  provide for his loved ones. I strongly believe this is the case for the majority of men who enter marriage. I imagine that married men will naturally stop caring just about themselves and begin caring for their spouses and future children after marriage. These added responsibilities encourage men to work harder to provide a more comfortable lifestyle for their loved ones. However, these responsibilities can also lead men to put off or even avoid marriage.

Before attending Brad Wilcox’s lecture, I had no idea how large the declining rate in marriage is for men. Wilcox provided an interesting graph that showed how the percentage of 25- to 50-year-old men who are married has dropped significantly from 1979 to 2013. Around 1980, about 75% of men in the U.S. between the ages of 25 to 50 were married. Nowadays, that percentage is close to 55%and is continually dropping each year. [i] Wilcox also showed how this drop in marriage correlates to a one-third decline in male employment between the same years.

Towards the end of Wilcox’s lecture, he emphasized the relationship between marriage, education, and employment. He quoted David Autor and Melanie Wasserman from MIT who stated, “Boys born into low-income, single-parent-headed households—which in the vast majority of cases are female-headed households—appear to fare particularly poorly on numerous social and educational outcomes. A vicious cycle may ensue.” [i] Following this quote, Wilcox showed how rates in high school dropouts, teen births, and male incarcerations are significantly lower for children who have parents with a marriage that’s intact as opposed to children with step parents or single parents. Clearly, marriage has a far-reaching impact on society. Marriage not only makes men work harder and smarter, but it also influences children and their potential in society and the workforce.

So how do we promote marriage in this day and age? Well, Wilcox first instructed that we “do not encourage more delayed parenthood, college as the way for everyone, and seeing the 20s as the decade for fun and exploration.” I learned that if we do so, marriage will continue to be something that men put off, which will have extremely negative effects on our society due to a decline in educational pursuits and employment rates.

Therefore, as Brad Wilcox demonstrated, we as a society need to respond in the following ways:

(1) avoid penalizing marriage in welfare policy

(2) increase support for vocational education and apprenticeships in schools

(3) boost low-income wages and child tax credit

(4) create a cultural campaign supporting fatherhood and marriage for men.

Wilcox also stated that, “Given the benefits of marriage for men—not to mention women, children, and the nation—we need to renew the economic policy and cultural foundations of marriage and family life in the 21st century.” [i] I strongly agree with Brad Wilcox and firmly believe that if we are to encourage marriage in our country by providing some of the benefits stated above, then the increasing rates of people married will result in a more efficient workforce, more stable communities, a stronger economy, and a safer nation.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not yet married; however, I can still imagine why marriage plays such an important role in creating stronger, safer, and more stable communities. I think the reason why Wilcox’s lecture especially resonated with me is because I recently became engaged. Therefore, I feel as if I have begun to get a taste of the influencing power marriage has on a man. Prior to getting engaged, I had a very similar viewpoint to Doug Taulbee. I found myself frequently hanging out with friends, going on my own adventures, and mostly caring for my own needs and desires. I’m not necessarily discouraging such a lifestyle because I feel like I learned a lot during these years in my life; however, I do believe there is a time in every person’s life when they need to prepare themselves to be in a position where there can be married. I feel that by doing so, one will become more mature and better prepared for the added responsibilities of adulthood. There is no doubt in my mind that my engagement has changed the way I think about life.

After getting engaged, I began to set new goals for myself that were focused on my education and future profession. These goals are by no means for only myself, but rather for my future spouse and children as well. I have found that as I am doing homework, studying for exams, performing research, etcetera, I am doing so with a whole new perspective, which revolves around my future family. I imagine that after I am married, I will feel an even stronger desire to excel in school and prepare even more efficiently for my future career. I believe that my engagement is preparing me to step up and be a man, and this is exactly why I strongly agree with Brad Wilcox’s notion that “marriage makes the man.” I know that my marriage will always be a constant reminder to me to work harder, smarter, and more successfully so that I can be a provider and protector for my family.


[i] Wilcox, Brad. Marriage Makes the Man: How Marriage Makes Men Work Smarter, Harder, and More Successfully. March 19, 2015.

[ii] The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Read by President Gordon B. Hinckley, 1995 September 23. Salt Lake City, Utah.





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