Solely In Black and White: An Alternative Shidduch Plan: 20

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Alternative Shidduch Plan: 20

It has actually been a while since I posted about the topic of shidduchim, but I suppose the whole NASI shidduch "game changing" initiative deserves a response. While I suppose it would not be prudent to subject the proposed program to further degradation, criticism, and harsh scrutiny, I will add that the program seems counterproductive. Logically, creating a tiered system in which girls are charged more money as they age only furthers the societal misconception that the older a girl becomes the less desirable she is; thus, harder to marry off. Ironically, I thought the organizational goal of NASI was to encourage the closing of the age gap by promoting the marriageability of “older girls” and not pressuring girls to get married as soon as possible.  

Regardless, I would like to offer an alternative that perhaps might alleviate some of the ills that plague the current shidduch system, at least from the age gap perspective. 

First and foremost, you have to concede that G-d makes all shidduchim. That being said, any shidduch not being made is also a byproduct of G-d’s will. Alternatively any “shidduch crisis” is a voluntary act of G-d. Now, even if you are of the opinion that there is a divergence in numerical distribution, or simply put more girls than boys, you must concede that G-d has the capabilities of rectifying the situation without human intervention. So while we may theorize ways to “fix” the “shidduch crisis” just know that we are only mere mortals trying to do our best to ease the pain of others, but ultimately, perfect solutions are not within our grasp.  

That being said, the basic idea behind my proposal is a simple premise: Girls should not be allowed to date until they are 20. 

The reasoning, I think, is rather straightforward. While I cannot vouch for the accuracy of NASI’s numbers, I can say that their premise may be correct. From my informal fact gathering I was alerted to the notion that the birth rate is not an even 50/50 split, but rather, 51% of all births are girls while 49% of are boys . Parenthetically, even if the age gap were closed, approximately 3.92% of all girls on average would not be able to marry (within our community). Furthermore, the larger the age discrepancy, the larger that number grows to. Assuming a conservative compounded birth rate of 1.63%, the average birth rate for the entire Brooklyn as our benchmark, we can surmise that the bigger the age gap, the more girls will be left without boys to marry. Hypothetically, if the average age gap was one year of divergences, the amount of unmarriageable girls would be 5.46%, two years 6.98%, three year 8.47%, four 9.94%, and five years 11.38%. Clearly, diminishing the age gap, even by one year, would be a significant accomplishment. 

In the proposal at hand, the main goal of the idea is deterring girls from dating until they are 20. This change would diminish the age gap by at least one year and in many cases two. Granted, this is not a solution. Rather it is a step in the right direction. I will concede that there are many pros and cons to this proposal. Additionally, there are many practical considerations that need to be addressed, such as how such a program could be enforced. Furthermore, there are other ancillary individualistic and societal benefits that said proposal would promote that need to be elucidated. However, because I am currently lacking in time and this post is already longer than I intended, I will save my responses to those issues for another post. Regardless, I still believe that based solely on the facts presented above that the idea has merit. 


  1. I think that we just have to acknowledge that God makes marriages. That's it.

    Bashert is bashert. And, seriously, who's going to enforce a minimum dating age? Frantic mothers who think their daughters better get married quick?

    We just have to take a step back and say, "It's up to Him." And no mortal should think that they can interfere with His plans.

    (If a guy in his mid-20's wants to marry a 19 year-old, do you really think he's looking for maturity? He's welcome to the teenager.)

  2. I agree, but to some extent. There must be some human intervention as well. Just as there is hishtadlus in dating perhaps there is hishtadlus in fixing the system. Granted, as you pointed out, G-d ultimately makes marriages, but that doesn’t mean we should sit back and do nothing.

    The question of enforcement is too long to answer in this comment. I will concede that the issue is a significant impediment. However, just know that I intend on addressing that issue at some point in the near future.

    (Listen, who are we to stop a 20 year-old for making an uneducated life decision? It’s not our place protect the “less intelligent” amongst us so long as their choices don’t harm others. Besides, how is the theoretical 20 year-old any different than anyone else who marries for the wrong reasons?)

  3. Your concept makes sense, but as Princess Lea said, "Bashert is bashert." Also, it would be very hard to enforce a rule like that. Didn't they try eliminating vorts and fancy weddings a few years ago? I haven't seen much change.

    I agree that we have to do our hishtadlus and try to fix the "shidduch crisis" that everyone has been waxing on about, but it seems like the more people try to address the issue, the more it gets exacerbated.
    If everyone stopped treating older singles as if they were a problem, maybe some of the stigma associated with their age would go away- shadchanim would set them up as if they were normal people, and boys wouldn't be as reluctant to date them!

  4. Where did you get your information on sex ratios? More males are born than females:

    However, there may very well be more males in the dating pool than females. Autism and other neurological disorders are many times more prevalent in males than females. There may be social reasons why men who are born into the frum community do not date within the frum community.

    So the end result may be the same, but not due to sex ratios at birth.

  5. In the kingdom of Lubavitch, very few girls marry as young as 20, (although several of my own were that young). Many girls go to two years of sem and then attend some frum college, work for a shaliach, or teach. Most marry at age 22 or 23 which has increased over the last few years. Marriage at 19 has not been the norm for 25 years.
    Part of the problem is that boys marry very young. Shadchanim are already calling regarding my 22yr old son. My 24yr old son, who is BH married has only a few single friends left to set up with his wife's many single friends. My 22yr old's class is largely uncharted territory with only a few who are already married but the 22 and 23 year old girls are not interested in boys that young. That is a pity because some of the boys would marry a girl who was a bit older then they are but the girl has already accomplished much more in life than the boy who has spent all of his time in yeshiva.
    As far as numbers, more boys than girls leave the derech, and unfortunately we see more tragic accidents involving boys who in general, take more risks.
    Raising the age of both boys and girls might result in more mature decisions and better marriages. We also have to realize that some individuals are subconsciously avoiding marriage. They are repeatedly set up but either they sabotage it and get rejected or they reject every suitor. If a single woman dates 5 men a year, in four years she has had 20 choices.
    Like shopping for shoes, there is Nordstroms and there is Payless. The bigger the store, the bigger the selection and the greater the chance that a shoe will fit. We have narrowed our selections with our many labels and designations and our failure to look in various directions for a good personality fit.

  6. Your post indicates that you have bought in to everything NASI stands for until now. However, their dogma is not known to be factual - the age gap may be the main driver, or it may be a minor issue that is more than offset by other factors. And 1.63% growth might be conservative or it might be far too liberal.

    Whether or not the problem as defined is true, manipulating people "for the greater good" is always a slippery slope. At best it has unintended deleterious side effects. Your solution is no different in that respect from NASI's.

  7. Soley: I think another problem is that people view marriages as a klal issue, whereas I see it as specific to each individual. I don't see myself as a victim of a greater crisis; I see myself doing my hishtadlus, not the hishtadlus of what the community has to do for me.

    And what is hishtadlus? Looking presentable. That's it. It doesn't say anywhere that the community has to enforce the unenforceable or start placing bounties on unwilling heads.

    There are some things within our control. This is not one of them.

  8. iTripped, true. If bashert is bashert, then no matter what programs or initiatives are created; whatever is meant to happen will happen.

    Absolutely. A significant part of the problem is perpetuating the idea that there is a shidduch crisis and furthering the stigma that older singles are less desirable. Ultimate, those issues need be addressed by society, but there is no easy solution or quick fix that can change societal mores or individual mindsets.

    Tesyaa, fair enough. Finding an accurate number for the sex ratio is difficult. It could very well be that globally in any given year boys outnumber girls. However, that may not be the case in our society. Incidentally, looking around at my peers, it seems that the amount of girls born easily outnumbers the amount of boys born. I realized my thoughts alone wouldn’t make a compelling argument, so I asked a local OB for some factual stats. According to their data, as stated above, the split is consistently 51% girls /49% boys. Adding in the facts that you presented, which I agree are valid, about boys not entering the shidduch pool only strengths the argument as to why there aren’t enough boys.

    Rosie, you’re right and you make many valid points. Is it possible that the Lubavitch community does not suffer from as severe “shidduch crisis” because girls get married slightly older?

    Anonymous, not necessarily. I concede there is a numbers issue, but I am not saying that it is the only problem or even the main problem. It’s the easiest problem to fix. The purpose of the 1.63% birth rate is just to illustrate a point. If you agree that society is growing, then any number use will lead you to a similar conclusion, albeit with different numbers.

    Agreed, any cause will have some undesirable effects. But how else do you solve a problem without any change? At some point there must be cost-benefit analysis to quantify pros and cons. If we were to reject any idea with a potential downside, our world would be a different place. Thus, I would surmise that while my proposal has a lower benefit threshold, it also contain less “costs.”

    Princess Lea, fair enough. You’re right, as an individual one shouldn’t feel entitled to blame the community; however, that doesn’t mean that the community shouldn’t work to address the issue. Alternatively, why can’t it be argued that every problem facing our society is the same thing? It’s not the community’s problem, it’s an individualistic problem. Would you say the same thing for someone who lost their job? I did my hishtadlus by keeping my job, so I don’t need to worry about someone else?!

  9. It scares me (maybe too strong a word) that the statistics of a random group of obstetricians is considered more credible than scientifically conducted population studies, but okaaaaay...

    Exactly why would the frum population have different sex ratios at birth than other groups? Are we so genetically different? OK, so we don't selectively abort, but male births outnumber females even in the absence of external influences.

    The scientific method is not irrelevant, even though you might like it to be.

    (An even greater preponderance of males are conceived, but of pregnancies lost before birth, the majority are males).

  10. The Lubavitch community has taken several steps to combat the shidduch crisis which include network groups, more shadchonim, matchmaking websites and online listings of singles, and even singles gatherings for singles age 25 and over. Because a large contingent of Lubavitch as become somewhat MO, many singles are simply meeting through friends and their families are not the ones making the decision. There are articles about shidduchim on Chabad websites and in printed publications. There are life coaches and psychologists who specialize in shidduch difficulties.
    One thing that is not a feature of Lubavitch is parental support for long term kollel. Kollel rarely lasts longer than 2 years. Men are not looking for sugar daddy father-in-laws to finance years of learning. The Lubavitcher Rebbe did not allow the parents' pocket book to be the reason to reject a shidduch offer.

  11. Tesyaa, I agree that my data source is not optimal. It is the best data I could find based on the resources readily available. If you can locate data that would be more scientifically sound and localized to our community, I am all ears. Furthermore, even the Wikipedia page you cited noted the difficulties in accurately measuring sex ratio at birth.

  12. What would you do if someone was jobless? You'd try to introduce him to people, get him to network. In the end any job he gets would have to be from his perseverance, but you can help him along.

    The answer wouldn't be that younger people who don't have to support themselves yet shouldn't enter the workforce on the possible chance they could take his job.

    If you want to help singles, it won't be through bans or restrictions. Just try to set up people reasonably. Sometimes you'll fail. Maybe you'll succeed.


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