Controversial: Is There a Shidduch Crisis?

Is there a shidduch crisis?

Oh how long I’ve thought about addressing this topic. Jacob’s post about the Shidduch Initiative finally drove me to it. I’ve noticed that many bloggers (including me) tend to put it in quotes. “Shidduch crisis.” Question: does it belong there?

In my humble and uneducated opinion, yessiree.

I don’t think I’m qualified to make a definitive statement that the shidduch situation today is better, worse, or the same as it ever was. But I don’t think anyone else is either.

I’m always amused when someone says, “So many tragedies these days!” There are no more tragedies today than there ever were. The only thing that changes is how many we notice. For example, soon after I started reading newspapers and listening to the radio, the number of murders, earthquakes, and political scandals in the world “multiplied” exponentially. When I got old enough to know people in shidduchim, the efficiency of the system “deteriorated” rapidly.

So the fact that people claim there’s an issue with shidduchim “today” doesn’t mean that there is one. Only that someone has decided to label it.

So, have there always been older singles? First of all, it seems reasonable to assume that there was never a 100% marriage rate. If Miriam bas Amram was single than anyone could have been single. The fact that marrying off children is discussed in such length in the Gemara suggests that it was not quite as easily done as giving away money on a street corner. And how many tales out of Europe revolve around poor girls who have no chance of wedding because they have no dowry or yichus?

My point? Marriage was always an issue. And the rate of non-marriage today may be no higher than it ever was.

So what is the shidduch “crisis” supposed to be? It’s two part:

  1. Fewer singles are matching up
  2. There are more spinsters than ever before

And the reasons put forth to explain this mysterious development?

One is that singles today are pickier than ever before. They won’t stand for being set up with a stranger and living happily ever after. They want good looks, money, and love.

My response: haven’t couples always been that way? What man doesn’t want a beautiful wife? What woman doesn’t want someone she’s proud of?

Consider Miriam, Moshe Rabbeinu’s sister. A classic “older single.” Nobody wanted to marry her because she was wasn’t pretty. Even the chance of getting the national leader as a brother-in-law couldn’t entice any of the 600,000 males between 20 and 60 to hitch themselves to an ugly woman. And if a tanah had to chain his daughter’s ankles together to force her to take small, ladylike steps because nobody would marry a striding woman… That problem we don’t have. In other centuries the superficiality centered on money or bloodlines. But there’s always been something.

Another reason given is that “there are more good girls than good boys.” This is a bizarre concept.

For starters: what defines a good boy? Perhaps our definition is too narrow?

And aren’t “good” and “bad” relative terms? I mean, don’t the “bad” boys consider themselves perfectly good? So maybe the “crisis” is restricted to a specific segment of society that has a surfeit of female members? If so, why is that?

Next: if, indeed, there are more good girls than good boys, then the shidduch crisis should be reversed for “bad” boys; there should be more bad boys trying to marry than bad girls. Is this the case? Or by “bad” and “good” do we mean “loserish” and “educated” and this is another way of saying that women feel like they have to marry down?

The third reason presented is the pyramid scheme. Every successive generation is larger than the previous one. If we assume that every generation is 49% male and 51% female (that’s the statistics), then every successive generation has an almost equal but larger amount of each gender. Since men start dating in their early to mid twenties, and girls start dating in their late teens early twenties, the theorem states that there are always more girls available per boy because their generation is larger than the one they are marrying into.

The problem with this theory: First of all, generations are measured in scores of years—that is, sets of twenty. Between 19 and 24 is five years. That’s not a generation gap. That isn’t enough time for a serious discrepancy in numbers to occur.

Second of all: the marriage pyramid is nothing new. Women have been marrying up and men marrying down since the dawn of time. (Even Chava was younger than Adam!) So if the “crisis” is something new to our times, this can’t be the cause.

I would like to posit that if there is a Shidduch Crisis, it isn’t as huge as we’d like to believe. I suspect it seems worse because of how the system works – like asking the guys first and overdoing the pre-checkout details. These things create the illusion of lines of desperate girls and innumerable rejections. Additionally, there’s the idiotic labeling of any spinster over 22 as “older”. This creates the illusion of a vast number of “older” singles. Throw it all together and you have hordes of desperate older singles being rejected for superficial reasons.

Am I crazy? Or is everyone else?


23 thoughts on “Controversial: Is There a Shidduch Crisis?

  1. one thing’s for sure – YOU ain’t crazy.

    another thing is likely – the world IS.

    i like the way you broke it down.
    wanna take up writing letters for the yated?

  2. I agree with your points. Thanks for the link.

    Its the stupid reference system that kills me.

    When I tried to set someone up, until they got back to me, checking all the $$%^ references, I’m ready to call it quit. Its such a headache dealing with all the petty requests for more info.

    Like anyone is going to tell the black truth anyways.

    Look, when I’m recommending someone that I’ve known for years to someone else that, also, I’ve know for a while, shouldn’t that be enough???

    Basically, references should provide the illusion that the guy/girl isn’t an ax murderer. Nothing more. People need to get with it and stop getting hung up on whether the other side uses paper or plastic.

  3. You misunderstood the email. It is not based on the premise (some say fact) that there are 51% girls to 49% boys. Rather, even assuming an even 50-50 split between boys and girls each year, there is still a problem because being that boys generally marry younger girls and given the approximate 4-5% frum population growth per year (compounding), the pool of boys in an age group is insufficient to support the larger number of girls dating the boys in that age group. This is because boys generally date younger girls. The solution therefore is to narrow the age gap thereby bringing the number of boys and girls in their coressponding dating age groups closer together.
    NOTE: All the other problems such as boys being too picky etc. only come as a result of this root problem. Since there is a “shortage” of boys, the laws of supply and demand take over and those in short supply can “raise their price.” This may sound very cold and mean but this is the reality.

  4. When she was *80*. And he did it out of charity. I would guess that makes her enough of a single for our purposes.

  5. As far as your argument against the age gap theory from the fact that throughout time, woman have been marrying older guys, the problem is much more acute now considering the “baby boom” in the frum world b”h. The birth rate in the frum/chareidei world is unprecedented and that is why the crisis has come into play in recent times.

  6. I think you are missing one important factor, namely that men are much more likely to abandon Judaism, and especially to marry out, than women are. Intermarriage rates are now high enough (even among people raised frum) to produce a big gender imbalance, although I presume (I haven’t seen statistics) that how big that is depends on which part of the Orthodox world you look at.

  7. Daniel,

    Do you have footnote for that? I’m not doubting your assertation that it is more common for men “turn off the derech” than women, but I certainly have never seen evidence for this.

    Although, I do think that a big part of the problem is that (at least in the MO YU/Stern scene), girls have a more superficial system for rating guys’ “frumness”. Whereas pretty much every Stern girl in the shidduch scene dresses the same (long sleeves, skirt), guys are judged on what kind of kipah they wear, what they wear on vacation (shorts in the summer?! jeans on the weekend?!) or even, I kid you not, what kind of stripes are on his shirt. Maybe I’m being naive but when I’m deciding whether I’ll be reaching for a polo shirt or button down in the morning, I’m not thinking about its impact on my avodas hashem.

    The “crisis” could be averted if kids would just think out of the box a little, be more (gasp) openminded). Jewish guys could alleviate the “crisis” if they dated older girls (after all, someone who graduated a year ahead if you in highschool is not sooo ancient). And girls, would it kill you to go out with a guy who is shorter than you? (They have very talented wedding photographers these days if you’re worried about looking like an ogre at your chassena).

  8. I’m still not convinced that we have more of a shidduch crisis today as apposed to years passed so much as we have an information crisis these days.

  9. i know someone who got married about 15 years ago at the age of 26, and she was one of very, very few “older singles” in her community. Now, there are hundreds.

  10. i know someone who got married about 15 years ago at the age of 26, and she was one of very, very few “older singles” in her community. Now, there are hundreds.

  11. I don’t think people were always so picky. It seems to me that in the past people were much more willing to compromise and commit to making it work, and went on to have happy, loving lives together. Also, in extreme situations such as the post-holocaust singles: Plenty of people got married to people with no money, not looking so great — they had good qualities and people were anxious to get started rebuilding.

    It’s possible that we’ve stopped doing this because there is an “emunah crisis” or an “emotional crisis” — Either there are more, or we are more aware of people who have emotional or religious problems and therefore get extra jumpy at anything that seems off. This wouldn’t explain excessive pickiness about clothes sizes, though.

  12. Kleina Yid,

    I don’t have figures for going off the derech in general, but there are figures for intermarriage.

    For the US, according to the National Jewish Population Survey 2000-1, 33% of married Jewish men were married to non-Jews, compared with 29% of married Jewish women. For under 35s, that increases to 47% of men, but only 37% of women.

    In the UK, the 2001 government census had an optional religion question. The analysis of the census data by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research shows 75.4% of married Jewish men married other Jews, compared with 77.5% of married Jewish women. Interestingly, for cohabitees (admitedly already off the derech), the gender gap is non-existant: 73.1% of cohabiting Jewish men had a partner of different religion, no religion, or who did not list a religion, as did 73.1% of cohabiting Jewish women. However, the men were more likely than the women to have a partner of another religion, while the women were more likely than the men to have a partner of no religion.

    I haven’t looked into the research methods to see if the US and UK figures are directly comparable with each other.

    The NJPS report can be found here:

    Click to access 3905.pdf

    The JPR one here:

    Click to access 2001_census.pdf

    (both are pdf files; the JPR one in particular takes a while to download).

  13. Perhaps there is a further issue to consider: the relative maturity / worldliness of girls and guys in the whole scene. It is often the case that the yeshiva system results in highly closeted guys who have little knowledge of the wider world, whereas the girls have a greater awareness of things around them. As a result, I would say that it is harsh to refer to the girls as ‘more picky’, but more that they may expect a more rounded person than they are often offered.

  14. I did a huge mitzvah and took an older single off the market. He did a huge mitzvah and married a cancer patient that no one would have taken anyway.

    We did our share of helping the “shidduch crises”… oh one second, is there or isnt there a crisis here????

  15. Wow.
    That breakdown takes intelligence and patience. So kudos to you (however dorky that sounds.)
    However, I disagree with one of your points. I think there ARE more good girls than good guys.

  16. Pingback: Shidduch Blues « Lefty Logic

  17. Pingback: He’s So Not My Type (2 of 2) « Bad for Shidduchim

  18. Pingback: My Explanations for the Shidduch Crisis « Bad for Shidduchim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s