As the marriage rate reaches disastrous lows among some poor subgroups in America, a scary idea has been developing: marriage is just for the rich. In neighborhoods where babies are common but husbands are not, a wedding is something women hope for, the way they hope to win the lottery.
This kind of thinking misses the powerful effect of marriage as a cause of being middle class, not just as an effect of being born there. People who finish high school and stay married have a slim chance of ending up poor, not matter where they started out in the class structure.
The overall divorce has been going down, led by a decline in the divorce rate among college graduates. College graduates know the newest information about family life – including the knowledge that marriage is good for women and for men, that married people live longer, are happier, and end of richer. College graduates are doing less cohabiting for a similar reason. Things are looking up for marriage from the middle of the social structure upward.
Putting these two ideas together, I see this message: smart poor people get an education and a marriage. The people with the most education, no matter how poor they started out, are already getting the message. The next step is to preach this good news to the poor: you can be married, and it will go well with you and your children.