Princeton Mom vs. the Facts, Grown and Flown in The Atlantic

In last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Susan Patton (known as The Princeton Mom) penned an op-ed  “A Little Valentine’s Day Straight Talk in which she advised young women by saying, “You should be spending far more time planning for your husband than for your career—and you should start doing so much sooner than you think.” While her advice sounds dated, the more troubling aspect is that, in our view, it is simply wrong and not consistent with the facts. Grown and Flown took a look at the research and Lisa has written a rebuttal which shows that marriage has changed radically and our views of women’s roles need to alter as well.  Her story appears in The

Princeton Mom vs. the Facts

Susan Patton is attracting a great deal of attention with her polemic on the virtues of attracting a husband in college.  Her underlying theme, that the university setting is the ideal feeding ground for husbands, leaves many women up in arms over the suggestion that the goal of getting a guy should be right up there with getting a degree. In what can only be described as scare tactics, she offers her version of motherly advice, which is that women need to find the smartest guys in college and pursue them as marriage prospects.  It may be in her upcoming book she will fill in the facts that back up her many assertions, but her argument does not hold up, not because the message is offensive, although it is. Rather, because the argument does not square with the facts.

LisaHeffernan. College educated women and marriage

college educated women

Patton begins her argument on sure footing.  Marriage, or some other form of relationship, is a big factor in women’s happiness.  But the fact that she neglects to mention is that marriage is even more important for men. It is men who should be far more desperate to find a partner, as their health, happiness, and longevity depend on it. Multiple studies show that married men have a lower risk of disease, less loneliness and depression and that men with more educated wives enjoy a lower death rate.  One cannot help but wonder if it is not men who should be seeking out college educated women as life partners, rather than the reverse.

Patton argues that spending the decade of one’s 20’s focused on career will leave a woman with few marriage prospects as they approach 30 because men reaching this milestone will look for younger women as partners.  She exhorts future thirtysomethings not to put themselves in the precarious position of having to compete with girls much younger.  But again, the problem with this argument lies in the facts.  On average, men marry women two years younger.  Two years, not ten years.

To continue reading at The

College women and husbands, Atlantic, Grown and Flown




  1. says

    This sounds like the “you are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married over the age of 30” nonsense that went around in the late ’80s, early ’90s. Simply a scare tactic. I married at 32; it seems most of the college educated women I knew married in their 30s. No one was left behind, if you want to look at it that way. All seem to be successful marriages. It seems we aren’t allowed to live with ANY uncertainty in our lives, eh? This person who says women should look for husbands in college – because they are more likely to find a compatible, successful mate. Like we can’t live with the uncertainty if we don’t find the perfect person at such a young age? You know what I’m saying? Eh, another dumb finding.

    • says

      I agree with you Pam, it is old nonsense dredged up. I think it is important to ignore they hype and look at the facts. Sure there are a lot of people our own age in college, but relatively few people seem ready to marry then. Women and men go out into the working world and no surprise seem to find the partners they are looking for. The facts bear this out.

  2. Cathy Searle says

    Great article Lisa but you don’t want to read the BTL comments. My observation of my generation in the UK is that the vast majority of women educated to a similar level to me (college, professional career) are married to men of similar age and level of education. I don’t know any “sad spinsters”, although some of course are single by choice or circumstance. With the proportions of men and women in higher education and the professions becoming more evenly weighted (from 65% men in my youth to 50% now) surely men will be more likely to marry their intellectual equal not less?

    • says

      Exactly Cathy. And women who establish those careers, as I know you did, have their security in their own hands. This gives them confidence, flexibility and the ability to take better control of their lives.

  3. says

    It sounds a bit archaic to me, this advice. How many kids today are ready to get married in their 20s? I have never heard a friend who got married later in life say they wish they’d married earlier, but many, many times have heard the feeling they wish they’d waited until they were older. It also seems that most of us meet our mates, if we choose to marry, through work contacts or endeavors we are interested in outside work. Hmmmmm…

  4. says

    I find the whole idea of “finding a husband as part of a scheme” irritating at best. I did happen to meet my husband in college, but at a point when I was working on being my real self, and that’s who he met and fell in love with. There are many paths to success and happiness. Frightening young women into believing there is just one is absurd.

  5. Carpool Goddess says

    Love your spin on this topic and so true! It is the men that should be more desperate to find a mate.

  6. says

    I remember reading Susan Patton’s original letter to Princeton women last year. The new article in the Wall Street Journal is just a rehash. What rubbish! She needs to come up with some original material.
    Great rebuttal article.

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