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Census Trends Showing a Reversal : Hang On to Wives, Men Told

May 31, 1987|SIMON FISHER | Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — If there is one piece of advice researcher Paul Glick would give after studying America's population for almost 50 years, it's that men should hold on to their women.

Glick, former chief demographer for the U.S. Census Bureau, has worked on the government's tally every decade since 1940. What he sees in the next two decades is the end of many trends that have molded American society since then.

Following World War II, millions of men left the armed forces, married and settled down, and America entered a period of prosperity and family-building known as the "Baby Boom."

During the postwar years, a shortage of men of marriageable age produced what became known as the "marriage squeeze," Glick said.

While women outnumbered men, the divorce rate rose as men were confident that they could find a second mate if they became dissatisfied with the first, he said. Unmarried women were forced into the job market, which contributed to the women's liberation movement.

But now that the Baby Boom's effects are ending, the squeeze is headed the other way as men outnumber women.

"The men have got to hold on to the women," he said.

The trend will lead to more stable marriages and halt the steady rise in the divorce rate, which has changed little since 1980 when it peaked with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, he said.

Glick made his remarks after a presentation in which he reflected on his career for Arizona State University students. He retired from the Census Bureau six years ago but continues his research at age 76 as an ASU adjunct professor of sociology.

Glick's specialty has been observations of the American family that he culled from thousands of census reports.

He was instrumental in identifying many of the major characteristics about U.S. society that are the basis for many laws--determining the age of adulthood, categorizing the major racial and ethnic groups, and noting the rise of households maintained by unmarried couples.

Changes in living arrangements have led to the demise of the term "head of household." The expression was dropped because it was confusing to many who thought the head of the house had to be a man, even though a man may not be in the home. The term was also confusing because people assumed that there couldn't be a head of the house if both spouses work and earn equal incomes.

Glick's reports often created controversy. As increasing amounts of federal funding for state and local governments became dependent on population statistics, the decennial census became increasingly controversial.

Minority activists jumped into the fray, anxious to prove that their numbers were larger and deserved more attention or government support.

"People who don't cooperate with the census lose," Glick said. "Really, what it's all about is money."

Among his favorite recollections of his 50-year career was a Soviet demographer who gave him reports on the Soviet population at an international conference.

"I said, 'I can get you some publications we have.' He said, 'No, we already have all those. What I really wanted was some science fiction books.' "

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