Maggie Gallagher

At the highest echelons, men are doing well. Just look at the list of Nobel Prize winners, corporate presidents, senators, movie directors and entrepreneurs, all heavily male.

But underneath the highest echelons, there is growing evidence that men, as a gender, are not doing so well. The New York Times has begun publishing a series, "The New Gender Divide," that chronicles the current XY chromosomal crisis among those who lack a college education.

Men now make up only 42 percent of college students. For every 50 women who earn a bachelor's degree, only 37 men get a college degree. As recently as 1980, only one out of 20 men without college degrees in their early 40s had never married, compared to almost one out of five middle-aged men today.

"Men don't marry because women like myself don't need to rely on them," Shenia Rudolph, a 42-year-old divorced single mother, offers the optimistic explanation. Shenia married her high school sweetheart two weeks after her first child was born. Six years later, after a rocky road of unemployment, she divorced him. Seeking a better life, she proceeded to have three kids with (but not marry) a basketball player, only to discover that he was actually married to someone else.

Ketny Jean-Francois says: "It's a myth that all women want to marry." She is "supporting" her 3-year-old by living off unemployment insurance and food stamps, the Times reports.

But men tell a different story. Men don't marry because they don't have to.

Joe Callender, 47, a retired New York City corrections officer, has had four children with two different women he has lived with but not married, because (he says) he doubts his own capacity to be faithful. "Marriage, that's sacred to me," he says.

Tom Ryan is an electronic specialist who spent years touring with a rock band. He touts traumatic fears of divorce as a reason for his middle-aged celibacy. After living with a girlfriend for six years, and buying a house with her, he had to suddenly come up with the cash to buy out her share of the house after the breakup. His girlfriend, who had lived with him for six years, had wanted to get married and have children. He loved her, he says, but he "did not feel ready." He still holds out that marriage and/or children is not "totally out of the question." Mr. Ryan is 54 years old.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.