Saturday, March 17, 2007


(Each "Question of the Week," an idea which I gleaned from A Republic If You Can Keep It, will remain toward the top of the blog until the next question appears. The previous Questions of the Week are HERE)
According to a recent study, "married with children," a significant part of the post-World War II American dream, has been on the decline since 1970.

From this article, which appeared in the March 4, 2007 Washington Post:
Numbers Drop for the Married With Children:
Institution Becoming The Choice of the Educated, Affluent

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Punctuating a fundamental change in American family life, married couples with children now occupy fewer than one in every four households -- a share that has been slashed in half since 1960 and is the lowest ever recorded by the census.

As marriage with children becomes an exception rather than the norm, social scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated and the affluent. The working class and the poor, meanwhile, increasingly steer away from marriage, while living together and bearing children out of wedlock.

"The culture is shifting, and marriage has almost become a luxury item, one that only the well educated and well paid are interested in," said Isabel V. Sawhill, an expert on marriage and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Marriage has declined across all income groups, but it has declined far less among couples who make the most money and have the best education. These couples are also less likely to divorce. Many demographers peg the rise of a class-based marriage gap to the erosion since 1970 of the broad-based economic prosperity that followed World War II.

"We seem to be reverting to a much older pattern, when elites marry and a great many others live together and have kids," said Peter Francese, demographic trends analyst for Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising firm.


As cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births increase among the broader population, social scientists predict that marriage with children will continue its decades-long retreat into relatively high-income exclusivity.


"For most Americans, cohabitation will continue to increase over the coming decades, and the percentage of children born outside of marriage is also going to increase," said Smock [co-author of the review and a University of Michigan sociology professor].
The article emphasizes income and education as factors contributing to the decline of marriage in American society. In addition, one interviwed couple — unmarried — cited their parents' failed marriages as evidence that "Marriage ruins life." The racial component was mentioned as follows:
Marriage and childbearing seem to be more "de-coupled" among black people than white people, with about a third of first births among white women coming before marriage, compared with three-quarters among black women, according to a recent review of research on cohabitation. As for children, the review found that 55 percent of blacks, 40 percent of Hispanics and 30 percent of whites spend some of their childhood with cohabiting parents.
Read the entire article.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK, in two parts:
(1) Do you see income and education as the primary factors in "married without children"?
(2) In the long term, what effect will "married without children" have on American society as a whole?


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posted by Always On Watch @ 3/17/2007 04:58:00 AM