Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marriage is Not About the Become a Minority Lifestyle

A scary Pew Research Center report, based on the latest census, calculates that only 51% of American adults are married.  Some have leaped to the conclusion that marriage is declining, and about to tip into a minority taste.

This alarmist talk is overblown. 

First, most adults are married, as they always have been in this country.

Second, a significant fraction were married until death did them part.  As we live longer, the fraction of the population composed of widows and widowers is growing.  They are not evidence that marriage is pass√© - quite the opposite.  They made the ultimate commitment to marriage, and we should never forget it.

Third, as the Pew report notes, the average age of first marriage is the highest it has been in this country - 26 for women, 29 for men.  We can be confident from past trends that the most of those unmarried twenty-somethings will marry.  We know from current survey research that they want to marry.

The actually scary trend is that the poorest and least educated people - the families that could most benefit from the material side of marriage - are the least likely to marry.

The good news is that the marriage rate among educated and dual-career couples is rising, and constitutes the great majority of the top half of the class and status structure.


Tom Paine said...

Greetings. I unfortunately do not share your optimism. While it is true that educated and upper income singles desire to get marry, and probably will get married, the number of such folks is decreasing in our society. Poverty levels continue to rise, the middle class continues to shrink, and, as you note, the people who would benefit from it the most are turning away from marriage.

If we don't uplift the positives of marriage to the next generation, I believe it highly likely for this erosion to continue. And a great number of marriages today start with couples living together. Statistics show that those who live together before marriage have a higher chance of divorcing than those who don't.

The world is changing, as it always has. If we want what is good in it to remain, we need to uplift it.

Anonymous said...

Gruntled, I think it would be interesting if you wrote a blog post responding to this post over at sociological images: I thought of you when I read it. She looks at the same data and references one of your favorite books -- Promises I can Keep -- but comes to different conclusions about the state of marriage (as well as its value) than you do.

Gruntled said...

Alex: Done. See December 19.