Ethics & Religion
May 5, 2016
Marriage Matters - To Everyone
By Mike McManus
declining in America. There were only 2,077,000 marriages in 2015 -
fewer than the 2,159,000 in 1970 when the population was only 203
million. If the same percentage were getting married today, there would
have been 1.3 million more marriages last year!
Sadly, a large minority of the population - 44% - say that marriage has
become obsolete. They are wrong. Marriage has never been more important
Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Family
Studies and a Professor at the University of Virginia, spoke about the
importance of God's first institution to 100 marriage leaders at the
Falls Church Anglican congregation recently.
He described marriage in America as "separate and unequal." The college
educated "are more likely to enjoy high-quality, stable marriages" than
the less educated. For example, the divorce rate of the college educated
is low and falling, dropping from 15% in the 1970s to only 11% in the
1990s. However, the divorce rate is 36% for both high school dropouts
and those who have had some college.
Only 6% of recent births to college graduates were to unwed parents,
while it was 54% for high school dropouts and 44% for those with some
college. "This class divide imperils the well-being of lower-income
children who are increasingly likely to grow up outside of a married
home," Wilcox asserted.
"There is strong evidence that family change preceded growing economic
inequality. Specifically, the rise of non-marital childbearing and
divorce date back to the 1960s, well before economic inequality began
growing in the 1970s...All of the increases in child poverty over the
last 30-40 years can be explained by changes in family structure."
Two-fifths of children will live in a cohabiting household. He said
those homes are "less stable, have less trust, less sexual fidelity,
more violence, and are five times more likely to break up than homes
with intact, married parents."
By contrast, married couples "who share a union deepened by time
together, a common faith and acts of service and are committed to
marriage `till death us do part' - are more likely to flourish and be
faithful to one another. Couples who set aside time to pray together,
enjoy markedly high quality marriages," Wilcox asserted.
George Akerlof, a Nobel laureate who is married to Federal Reserve Chair
Janet Yellen, states that "Men settle down when they get married. If
they fail to marry, they fail to settle down." Many men are transformed
by marriage in ways that make them significantly more successful.
Married men earn about $16,000 more per year than single men of the same
However, why did a marriage divide emerge in the first place? William
Julius Wilson argues that the shift away from an industrial economy
towards an information economy has rendered the less educated men less
"marriageable." That is partially correct.
However, Isabel Sawhill, a scholar at Brookings Institution, says this
"purely economic theory falls short as an explanation of the dramatic
transformation of family life in the U.S. in recent decades." There was
no great uptick in family instability during the Great Depression when
economic dislocation and devastation were much more severe.
Wilcox quotes scholarly studies that between 20% - 40% of the growth in
family income inequality "is associated with the rise of divorce and of
nonmarital childbearing which leaves many children in homes with only
one potential income earner."
He also notes that the growing marriage divide is "fueling an
historically unusual type of gender inequality in low-income
communities." He cites a study by MIT economist David Autor that poor
boys from fatherless homes in Florida are much more likely to be absent
from school than are poor girls from homes without fathers. "The fallout
of fatherlessness has also hit poor boys harder than poor girls when it
comes to school failure, violence and incarceration."
Another factor fueling the low marriage rate in lower income areas is
that single mothers have found it easier to get welfare than married
Finally, there is a surprising element - the decline of weekly church
attendance by those without a college degree has been much greater than
among the better educated.
Families who pray together, stay together - and those who don't, don't.
"Marriage is the gold standard for flourishing financially, socially and
emotionally - especially for men," asserts Wilcox.
Curiously, however, very few sermons are preached on the importance of
"He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the
Lord," asserts Proverbs 18:22.
Copyright (c) 2016 Michael J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers, is a syndicated columnist. Past columns
can be found at www.ethicsandreligion.com.
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