In America (and much of the West), however, the institution of marriage has been in decline for the last 40 years. The causes for this decline are many and complex, but for today let’s put them aside and look at the effects.
What’s happened in America is that marriage has become something of a bifurcated institution: People at the high end of the social scale—the upper third in income and education—are immensely successful at marriage these days. If you finish college and have a job, your chances of getting (and staying) married remain quite high, despite the popular notion that divorce and cohabitation are de rigueur among the elites.
But on the lower two-thirds of the social scale, it’s a different story. Last weekend the New York Times ran an interesting piece on this divide. The most telling quote included is probably from Harvard sociologist Christopher Jencks. "The people who need to stick together for economic reasons don’t," Jencks noted. "And the people who least need to stick together do."
To hammer home this point, check out this page of infographics that accompanied the Times piece. The most telling graphic is the one at the top right of the page, showing the change in percentage of households with two parents, by income group.
In 1968, 96 percent of households in the top third, and 77 percent of households in the lower third, consisted of two parents.
By 2010, the percentage for the top third dipped to 88 percent. But for the lower third? Only 41 percent of households had two parents.
And that, in a single graph, is the story of America’s social problems over the last two generations.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Economic well-being is tied to marriage. More articles.
There seems to a steady flow of articles acknowledging the link between marital status and economic well-being. Weekly Standard writer Jonathan Last refers to recent New York Times article on the subject.