National Public Radio had an interesting series on arranged marriage among American Muslims. The main point was that even though American-raised, even American-born Muslims find themselves between American do-it-yourself mate selection and the arranged marriages of the Old Country, many American Muslims do find arranged marriages work out fine. Moreover, having your parents take an active role in mate selection takes out much of the anxiety of finding someone who is suitable without having to succumb utterly to American sexual norms.
Which leads me to what struck me most about this series. The final installment begins with this question to Shad Imam, who is now six years into his happy arranged marriage: "How do you marry someone you haven't lived with?" While cohabitation before marriage is common in the United States, and is the norm for college graduates, it is not really a good way to get to know a potential spouse. Cohabiters who marry have a higher divorce rate than people who do not live together before the wedding. The best-educated couples are starting to get this message, and their rate of pre-marital cohabitation is going down.
NPR is usually ahead of the curve on cultural trends. It is instructive to see that on this one they are still peddling the wisdom of a previous generation of mothers -- the antithesis of the moms who are arranging marriages -- to "give him a test drive first."