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Feb. 15, 2012

Column #1590

Consider 162 Reasons to Marry!

By Mike McManus

            Those of us who believe in marriage are not doing a good job.  The marriage rate has plunged 54% since 1970.  If the same percentage of couples were getting married today as in 1970, we would have 3.3 million marriages this year, not 2.2 million.

            The cover story of the Washington Post Magazine on Sunday, “When You Never Find The One,” quoted people rationalizing about their singleness.  “This is who I am. I’m single. I love it,” says assistant professor Bella DePaulo.  

            “Settling just never seemed like the right move,” writes blogger Wendy Braitman.

            Has marriage become less attractive?  Obviously, it has for many people.  The percentage of married adults used to be 72% and is now only 51%.

            However, Pat Fagan, head of the MARRI Institute at the Family Research Council, has written a paper full of hope: “162 Reasons to Marry.” 

It is must reading for your single friends.

            “Marriage is the foundational relationship for all of society…Good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies, for they are the foundations of strong families,” he begins.

            “The future of the human race and all its component societies is embodied in each newborn. Whether that newborn grows to be a strong capable adult depends much on the marriage of his parents.  Whether he is physically strong; whether she is intelligent; whether he is hardworking or a dropout; whether she will be mentally healthy and happy; whether he will be more educated; whether she will marry in her own turn; whether he will be a taxpayer or a drain on the commons; whether she enjoys sexuality to the full; whether he worships and prays; whether she has children and how many; whether he finishes high school and goes to college or learns a trade; whether she is law-abiding; whether he grows old with a family surrounding him – all these most desirable outcomes…are strongly connected to the strength of that child’s parents.”

            If that sounds like it was written by a man with eight children, it was!

            However, only 46% of teenagers are living in an intact married family.  More than half are growing up in homes where the parents “rejected each other,” as Fagan wrote last year.

            That is what is ominous. 

Women raised in intact married homes have the lowest number of unwed births, are more likely to marry and less likely to divorce, says the report. They are “the least likely to have intercourse before age 18,” have fewer sexual partners and are least likely to cohabit.

But cohabitation has skyrocketed from 430,000 in 1960 to 7.5 million in 2010.  Unwed births have soared eight-fold from 5% to 41% of all births, and are mostly to cohabiting parents.

Children from intact married families are most likely to earn As in school and to have the “highest combined English and math grade point averages.”

However, on international math comparisons, Americans scored 487 while Japanese, Koreans and Chinese scored from 540 to 600. The unwed birth rate is 41% here, 2% in Japan.

“Children from intact families exceed their parents educational attainment (sons by 2 .8 years, daughters by 2.5 years)….Married men work more hours than cohabiting men” and their productivity increases by 27% as a result of marrying,” the report asserts.

Married families have larger incomes, larger net worth, and the largest net worth growth of between $3,000 and $17,000 in two years.  Conversely, if biological single parents of poor children marry, 70% of those kids would immediately move into the middle class. 

Marriage also reduces crime rates.  Adolescents from married homes are less likely to steal, to fight, be delinquent or run away from home.  Conversely, teenagers from divorced families are more verbally aggressive and violent toward their romantic partners.

“Marriage is especially beneficial for the health of the elderly.”  That’s an understatement.  A married woman will live four years longer – and a man, ten years longer than a single one.  “It seems that marriage, as a sort of social support, strengthens the immune system,” and married people smoke and drink less and maintain healthier weight.

Result: married people’s “responses to cancer treatment are better and comparable to people 10 years younger.”

However, what is to be done about plunging marriage rates? 

The report’s response is feeble: “Maybe we can hope that the children who experienced so much rejection between their parents will become the greatest generation of parents who belong to each other in lifelong marriage.”

I doubt it. 

One good answer, however, is give the report to unmarried friends. Download it free at FamilyResearchCouncil.org, Go to the Marriage and Family section.

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