I've been re-reading SephardiLady's post on the "Shidduch crisis" and was struck by the fact that it seems that in some (many?) cases, the shidduch market has turned into a meat auction, with sons "selling themselves" to the girls whose parents can give the most money in support. In the post mentioned above, Sephardi Lady quotes a letter that was written to the Yated where several parents of marriageable-age girls are complaining that they cannot get shidduchim for their daughters because they don't have the means to support their future sons-in-law to be for X number of years. In one particularly egregious case, a young man rejected a girl out-of-hand because her parents didn't have the funds. But once a neighborhood person was willing to kick in some money for her, all of a sudden the doors were wide open.
Personally, I find the whole attitude a bit sickening. Are we actually going back to the concept of dowries and marrying for money? What ever happened to looking for someone who has good middos, someone who shares your outlook on life, or even someone whom you fall in love with? Have we become so shallow now that money is the primary focus?
Of course, this sort of thing doesn't go on (generally speaking -- of course there are exceptions) in the secular world. You don't often find a fellow who wants to focus his attention on genetics, for example, who will hold out until he finds a father-in-law who is willing to support him while he gets his Ph.D. Such a thing is practically unheard of -- and we'd all roundly criticize (and rightly so) a prospective future geneticist who did so. Of course, some may marry spouses who are willing to support them - but that's a decision of the prospective spouse and not one that her father and mother are held "hostage" to.
Of course, this is a problem that has more than one root. Part of the problem lies in the fact that earning a living is considered "pas nisht" in some communities. Part of the problem lies in the fact that in some communities girls are told that the only way they'll matter in life is by being the wife of someone who learns full time. And part of the problem lies in the fact that if a girl decides that she does want to marry a full-time learner, it seems that even if she says she's willing to support him ( a commendable goal, if one is capable of doing so), she *still* can't get the go-ahead without a large bank account in her or her parents' names.
Sigh. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I never had to put up with the shidduch world. I was fortunate to meet my wonderful wife at a young age, before we ended up in the shidduch scene. My mother was broke, my father wasn't wealthy. Her parents weren't wealthy either. When we got married, I went to work to support our family. That's not to say that her parents didn't provide some help - they did (and still do!); but it was never a condition of my marrying their daughter and it was never asked for outright. I could not see asking my in-laws to support our family full time, even if it was because I wanted to go into learning full-time.
But, to get back to the point, I think we need to change our attitude toward matrimony. We need to focus more on the positive reasons to marry someone, and not on the size of the in-laws' bank accounts.