Men getting less excited about marriage as women grow more professionally ambitious

by Ryan Streeter on April 20, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Women have grown more ambitious than men about their careers, and men have grown less ambitious than women about the importance of marriage.

These are two interesting takeaways from the latest Pew poll. Since we’re in new territory here, it’s pretty hard to predict how this will affect families and the economy in the future. But it’s hard to game out a path that looks heartening.

On the first point, it’s not that men have grown less ambitious about being successful in a good profession than they used to be. Rather, they’ve flatlined around in the 58-59% range for the past 15 years. Women, on the other hand, have grown more ambitious:

On the second point, young women have grown more desirous of having a good marriage, while young men have less desirous:

This might be good news for young men who do value marriage (i.e., a better field for them), but it’s not especially good news for the country overall.

Both young men and women, the poll shows, have grown in their desire to be good parents, so the poll doesn’t show a growing bias against family per se among men, but it does show a growing blasé attitude to marriage.

A lot has been written about the discouraging drop in employment-to-population ratios, especially among young men. The broader picture is one in which two traditional pillars of upward mobility and aspiration in America – work and marriage – are in trouble when it comes to men.