• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Marriage in Middle America: Fair to Middling—and Struggling

    A recent New York Times article points out that divorce rates—once highest in metropolitan, big city areas—are now creeping upward in Middle America:

    Forty years ago, divorced people were more concentrated in cities and suburbs. But geographic distinctions have all but vanished, and now, for the first time, rural Americans are just as likely to be divorced as city dwellers.

    And it’s not just an upswing in divorce rates. Middle America is also experiencing another dramatic family shift: the rapidly increasing rate of children born to single mothers.

    Recent research by Professor Brad Wilcox highlights these trends. He reports that in 1982 only 13 percent of babies born to women in the “moderately educated middle” (non–college graduates who completed high school) were born to single mothers. Today, that number is 44 percent. This calculation much more closely mirrors the 54 percent rate among women without a high school diploma and is far beyond the 6 percent rate among well-educated women.

    And the implications are tragic. A child born to a single mother is over five times more likely to live in poverty than a baby born to married parents, and 80 percent of long-term poverty occurs in single-parent homes. Furthermore, approximately three-quarters of all poor families in the U.S. are headed by a single parent.

    Lest one think the divide between poverty and wealth in single- and married-parent families is simply a matter of educational discrepancy, consider the findings of Heritage policy analyst Robert Rector: “The poverty rate for a single mother with only a high school degree is 31.7 percent, but the poverty rate for a married-couple family headed by an individual who is only a high school graduate is 5.6 percent.” Based on these rates, he concludes that “marriage drops the odds of being poor by 80 percent.”

    The poverty created by single-parenthood is not only debilitating to women and children; it places a significant burden on taxpayers, who are subsidizing these households with an ever-increasing amount of tax dollars as the out-of-wedlock birthrate and the cost of federal welfare programs have soared over the last five decades.

    Considering the debilitating effects of poverty—as well as a variety of other increased risks associated with fatherlessness—Wilcox sums up the implications of the “retreat from marriage”:

    The disappearance of marriage in Middle America … endanger[s] the American Dream, the emotional and social welfare of children, and the stability of the social fabric in thousands of communities across the country.

    Local, state, and national policymakers must consider the impacts of the eroding “social fabric” of marriage and seek policies that promote strong families. Furthermore, policies that penalize marriage must be eliminated. Strong marriage and family in all parts of the nation are crucial to maintaining a thriving, prosperous, and truly independent America.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Marriage in Middle America: Fair to Middling—and Struggling

    1. Pingback: Marriage in Middle America: Fair to Middling—and Struggling | Big Propaganda

    2. Roger Baxter. Batavi says:

      I am not an overly religious person, but I do wonder how well this tracks against the overall decline in religious affiliation. Seems to me that a belief in a higher, guiding power would lead to higher marriage rates and committments.

    3. Linda, Somerset, TX says:

      I'm not surprised that those numbers jumped but there is a logical reason for it. My husband of 20 years (today is our anniversary) and I live in what once was a sparsely populated rural area. Many people have moved out here in the last 20 years to escape crime in the city and to take advantage of the lower property tax assessments, and they've only brought their problems with them, including the kids who tag everything in sight like a dog leaving its mark and their own marital problems.

    4. Andrew, VA says:

      It's interesting that marriage is failing in middle America, where many "red" conservastive states are. What are marriage rates like in the "blue" ones on the coasts?

    5. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      I see a correspondence between the Small States being usurped by Progressive Socialists. I see humanism and atheism finally making its way to Middle America (along with Crack). The Public Policy decisions have finally penetrated America's Heartland. Families have been under perpetual attack from the Half Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. Thank you for the facts, now the Captive Media can ignore them some more!

      Families are the way to raise Children. It does not take a Village, it takes a family. I point out that Thought Crime is particularly destructive of Fathers in America, so as we incarcerate Fathers? Gangs bring them up, and soulless Public Schools. Family Law is full of genuine Thought Crimes! But that's Sorcery, technically! Deception well over the American People's heads! Somewhere in Government I am sure there is an Agency named something good, but it purposefully destroys American Families every chance it gets. HHS, no doubt. Abolish it.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.