July 23, 2005
The State of Our Unions 2005
become less likely to marry. This is reflected in a decline of nearly
50 percent, from 1970 to 2004, in the annual number of marriages per 1,000
women," according to "The State of Our Unions 2005: The Social Health of
Marriage in America."
This is a stunning finding of an annual report by "The
National Marriage Project" written by
David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead.
If the same percentage of people were getting married
in 2005 as 35 years ago, there
would be 1.1 million more marriages a year - 3.3 million marriages
rather than the 2.2 million
who married in 2004.
This trend has had a calamitous impact. According to
the Census, only half of Americans
are married today compared to two-thirds in 1960.
Why does this matter? In Genesis we read, "It is
not good for man to be alone."
"The institution of marriage represents the very
foundation of human social order," writes
Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family. "Everything of value sits on that
Institutions, governments, religious fervor and the welfare of children are
all dependent on
For evidence, read The Case for Marriage: Why Married
People Are Happier, Healthier,
and Better Off Financially by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher. Examples
from its data:
1. Happier. Two-thirds of husbands and 62% of wives
grade their marriage the highest
possible happiness rating. "Almost no one 2% of the
married men and 4% of the married
women described their marriage as `not too happy.'
"Nor do unhappy marriages necessarily stay that way:
86% of those who rated their
marriage as unhappy in the late eighties and who were still married five
years later said their marriages had become happier," the book states.
2. Health: A married man will live TEN YEARS longer
than a single man.
Four out of ten never-married or divorced men will die before age 65
compared to one of ten
Divorced men are twice as likely to die from the four
biggest killers: heart disease,
stroke, hypertension and cancer -- as married men in any given year! And
death for the divorced is four times more likely via auto accidents and
suicide, seven times higher by
cirrhosis of the liver and pneumonia.
Divorced women are also more likely to get sick and die
at somewhat younger ages than
3. Wealth: A married man will earn 10 to 40 percent
more than a single man with the same educational background, reports the
Institute for American Values. A wife
and family inspire men to work harder. Nearing retirement in
1996, married couples had
assets or three to four times that of the never-married, the divorced,
the widowed or the
Why is there such a plunge in the marriage rate?
Cohabitation has soared 10-fold - from 540,000 in 1970 to 5,081,000 million couples
living together in 2004. That is more than twice the 2.2 million
marriages a year. Cohabitation not marriage is the dominant way male-female unions are formed.
Many people think living together is a step
Actually, cohabitation has become a substitute for
marriage, diverting tens of millions
from getting married at all. In 1970, there were only 21 million
Americans who had never
married. By 2003 that figure jumped to 52 million. That is a stunning
148% population growth.
Cohabitation also drove up out-of-wedlock births from
224,000 in 1960 to 1.4 million in
1993. Two of five couples living together have children under age 18 -
virtually the same as
Many cohabiting couples think that if they marry, they
have a better chance of a lifelong
marriage. Actually, those who marry after living together are 50
percent more likely to divorce
than those who remain apart before the wedding.
That's why divorce rates have nearly doubled since 1960
even though the marriage rate
has plunged in half. America has "the world's highest divorce rate,"
says "The State of Our
These numbers need to be considered by every house of
worship, where 86 percent of
couples marry. Clearly, organized religion is part of the problem.
However, 10,000 churches have signed a Community
Marriage Policy (CMP) in which
they pledge to require rigorous marriage preparation, to offer marriage
enrichment and to restore troubled marriages. (Disclosure: my wife and
I have helped create 194 CMPs.)
Consider the result in one CMP city: marriage rates
have risen 25 percent in Evansville,
IN, thanks to Community Marriage Builders led by Dr. Ann Gries. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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