By Pratik Desai '17
This past month, feel-good romantic Bollywood film titled “Prem Ratan Dhan Payo” was released. The Hindi title translates to, “I have found the wealth of love’s treasure,” and the thematic release is quite timely, because, simply put: love is back. Specifically, recent studies suggest that the old adage of “half of all marriages end in divorce” may no longer bear fruit.
Several of us at Booth are developing a series of mixers for graduate students in the Chicagoland area to capitalize on the robust pool of singles that needs a nudge in the right direction, because there has never been a better time to be single and looking for something more. Consider recent research on marriage and divorce. Justin Wolfers, an economist from the University of Michigan, states, “If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce.” Much of the research scrutinizing the conventional wisdom of high divorce rates in the US examines evolving demographic trends. Intuitively, we can accept the findings that people are getting married at older ages. They are more educated and more settled into their careers, and thus, are likely to have more social and financial stability. But there is much more at play. Those who were more likely to get divorced anyway, are forgoing marriage. The totality of this has three major implications. First, marriage as an institution is regaining societal confidence, as it no longer appears to be an elusive concept relegated to fictional tales. Empirical evidence actually shows marriages sustaining over long periods of time. Second, the pool of individuals who present themselves as available for marriage are more serious about it, as they are self-selecting. Third, the cumulative success of social movements pushing for gender equality may be eroding the economic necessity of marriage; more people who opt for marriage are doing so out of desire and not necessity.
We are at a critical crossroads with marriage and love, particularly at Booth. As we make deliberate choices about what career paths to explore - driven by an optimistic desire to pursue our passions or explore the unknown - we can similarly apply a fresh new perspective on what it means to date, what it means to love, and what potential outcomes of dating look like. Think of the research on declining divorce rates as a recruiter would of a promising resume book coming from Booth – objectively, the field of candidates is improving on a multitude of levels, so why not take a chance on someone whose company you truly enjoy? Merriam-Webster defines opportunity as, “the favorable juncture of circumstances.” Circumstances - such as more permissive attitudes, social and economic stability, and the feminist movement - are coinciding with later cohorts of people born managing to stay married longer. There is something driving the decline in divorce (and resurgence of marriage). Therefore, it is high time that we discard the cynicism of old and embrace the return of the main motivator behind marriage: prem. Prem is back.
Pratik is a self-described Indophile, provocateur, musician, poet, animal lover, avid volunteer, and tech enthusiast.