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  • What Fewer Married Americans Means for the Nation

    Reading alone

    Nearly 40 percent of women in the United States have never been married, an all-time high, according to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

    Beyond lower marriage rates, a high divorce rate and increasing numbers of children born outside of marriage indicate that marriage in America is struggling—or rather that more Americans are struggling to form and maintain marriages.

    But these trends in marital decline are not created equal. Lower-educated (without a high school diploma) and now a growing portion of moderately educated (high school graduates) adults in “middle America” are experiencing significantly greater marriage declines, divorce rates, and unwed childbirths than their college-educated peers.

    These trends have consequences. While lower education levels are associated with higher rates of poverty, having a child outside of marriage dramatically increases the likelihood that a woman and her child will be poor and dependent on welfare across education levels. For example, the poverty rate among single mothers with less than a high school diploma is over 45 percent. However, contrast this with only 15 percent of married-parent homes at the same education level.

    Considering the link between unwed childbearing and poverty and the high proportion of unwed births to low-educated and moderately educated women, as opposed to the low rate of unwed births to college-educated women, it is no surprise that researchers are describing the formation of a two-caste society, with marriage and education as the dividing line.

    While many unwed births occur within a cohabiting relationship, these children do not reap the same financial benefits and are at greater risk for a variety of outcomes compared to their peers in married-parent homes.

    Marital decline is a tragedy also because many lower- and moderately educated women deeply value marriage. In fact, they are just as likely to say that marriage is “very important” or “one of the most important things” as are their more highly educated peers. These women also place a high priority on motherhood.

    Yet, as David and Amber Lapp of the Institute for American Values report from their research on working-class single parents, marriage and parenthood have become disconnected. For example, one young unmarried father in a working-class community noted:

    It’s kind of biased if you say you have to be married because you have a kid, you know. ‘Cause I mean, that’s not the point. I mean, that doesn’t matter.… Of course a child needs a father figure and of course a child needs a mother figure…[but that] really has nothing to do with the marriage.

    In reality, a child’s well-being has a lot to do with marriage, as does the well-being of women, men, and society in general. As the decline in marriage becomes more common for those in “middle America”—the majority of the nation’s population—fewer adults and children will reap the benefits of this foundational institution. As Professor Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, asserts:

    If marriage becomes unachievable for all but the highly educated, then the American experiment itself will be at risk. The disappearance of marriage in Middle America would endanger the American Dream, the emotional and social welfare of children, and the stability of the social fabric in thousands of communities across the country.

    Efforts to rebuild marriage are crucial to strengthening this most fundamental unit of society.

    Image used under Creative Commons from yourdon

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to What Fewer Married Americans Means for the Nation

    1. @TgGRA says:

      I noticed the writer of this article is a female. The prime reason marriage is declining is that women are driving men down and away, and disrupting the natural order of society. They are doing this by wanting things both ways, as it were. They want all the traditional prerogatives of males to work and be respected in civil society, but at the same time have all the traditional protections of chivalry–that is, be treated like ladies (no sexual harassment, no expectations of doing heavy lifting, special consideration for their less testosterone-driven operating styles, etc.). Men are expected to be men one moment ("Please take charge of our date"), and mice the next ("Who said you could decide THAT?!").

      So, we have women embracing a hypocritical and contradictory approach to life, and men deciding it's not worth the hassle of being locked into a double-standard relationship. Hence, marriage in America is dying.

    2. @TgGRA says:

      Ms. Sheffield, you have my personal respect as a writer, and you have every right as an American to pursue your life as you see fit. But understand that on a societal level–and you conservatives have trouble thinking on that high of a level–there is a consequence of so many women pursuing so many careers, and yet hypocritically demanding so many special considerations. Perhaps you claim you personally seek no special treatment, yet the general demographic does. And that is the problem.

    3. @TgGRA says:

      The answer is to put values and principles ahead of personal indulgences and preferences–that is, we need to focus not on individual achievement as the end-all, but rather on fulfillment of our roles and duties to one another and to our community, country, and civilization. Conservatives have trouble doing this (and hence I'm a Reactionary). A strength of our society in recent decades is that, unlike our counterparts in certain less-advanced parts of the world, we do not isolate half of our mental talent behind burkhas and walls. Women of ability and talent can and do contribute in many ways to our society. That must be maintained. At the same time, particularly on the more personal and individual level, we must also consider the natural distinctions between men and women, and take these differences into account as we individually and collectively set gender courses in society.

      We as a people have tried to have it both ways. We cannot do this anymore.

    4. serfer62 says:

      American women have poisoned the well.

      Best bet is a foreign woman, just keep them away from American woman when you come back.

    5. Wayne Shook says:

      I believe this article dealing with the significance of marriage in a free society is very worthwhile. There are many things going on in this country in this post-modern culture that are detrimental to our freedoms and I feel this is definitely one of the aspects.

    6. Sally says:

      I blame California no fault divorce and altering the vernacular illegitimate. A Bastard child is too harsh, adultry is too judgemental. Why it is the American's right of pursuit of Happiness, that made me selfish.
      Then the court rolls the man over when his wife is a cheat. My favorite is the courts listening to the children allowing them to testify against their father. My husbands' kids stated they did not want to see us, but the ex wanted more money. Since she is home schooling them and works 10 hours a week, the kids are now on state health care. Men are to be the head of the family, Remember? They have done to the White man what they did to the Black man.

    7. Lawrence says:

      The decline of marriage equates to the decline of the family. But ,the problem is the family was the basic unit in our society. No worry, the government will take care of you and look out for your welfare and long term planning. No need to be interdependent with one person when the “Great Society" can look out for all your needs. Marriage, family structure, religion, community values are all in decline and the defacto recipient is the government. We are relieved of our stress and concerns and the only price we pay is — freedom.

    8. O2BMe says:

      In my mother's day there were no jobs for women. Her father arranged her marriage at 16 and she had to drop out of school. Only the really rich girls might get a chance to go to college because it was believed that girls just get married and the money was wasted. This changed very slowly and when the 60s came the baby was thrown out with the bath water. Today Hollywood, Television, Computers and cell phones have brought us a view of life that anything goes. Women and men who marry now struggle between the two worlds. They both come home tired and the woman feels the husband doesn't do enough to help around the house and the husband feels he does more than his share and she doesn't appreciate how tired he is. If there children this situation is worse. If the woman stays home and takes care of the house and children society looks down on her and the government penalizes her and she feels worthless (which of course causes arguments). I don't think we want to back to my mother's time, but going forward this way will destroy the home.

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