Marriage: a fading institution? 9

Today the Supreme Court has overturned the Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, on the grounds that it violates the rights of gay couples by denying them government benefits.

Will the legalization of same-sex marriage rescue the institution itself from obsolescence, or hasten its terminal decline?

The decline is a fact.

From Pew research, December 2011:

Barely half of all adults in the United States — a record low — are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.

In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years. Other adult living arrangements—including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood—have all grown more prevalent in recent decades.

The Pew Research analysis also finds that the number of new marriages in the U.S. declined by 5% between 2009 and 2010, a sharp one-year drop that may or may not be related to the sour economy. …

Public attitudes about the institution of marriage are mixed. Nearly four-in-ten Americans say marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a Pew Research survey in 2010.  Yet the same survey found that most people who have never married (61%) would like to do so someday. …

The decline is particularly dramatic among the less educated.

From the Population Reference Bureau, September 2010:

Marriage rates have dropped among all major racial/ethnic groups and for both men and women. However, there are substantial differences in marriage trends by level of education. CPS data show that those with only a high school diploma (or less) have experienced a steep decline in marriage during the past decade. In contrast, marriage rates have held fairly steady for those with at least a bachelor’s degree.

Forty percent of all births are now to unwed mothers:

From The Atlantic, March 18, 2013:

58 percent of first births in lower-middle-class households are now to unmarried women. Meanwhile, two in five of all births are to unwed mothers, an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Marriage has changed. Once upon a time, the typical marriage … involved special roles for the husband and wife. He would work. She would stay home. It was an efficient arrangement where opposites attracted. Men who wanted to be executives would marry women who wanted to be housewives. And, since almost half of women had no independent earnings 40 years ago, there were a lot of women who just wanted to work at home and raise a family.

Several factors mussed up this traditional union. Today women expect to work much, much more than they used to – and they do. They make up the majority of new college graduates and their labor participation rate has soared over 60 percent. Since 1950, hours of work by married women have increased by roughly a factor of three …

Now that women are better educated, with greater control over both their fertility and their earnings, modern marriage has changed from an arrangement where men marry for a housewife to a “hedonic” model where both partners can be the breadwinner. …

Think of marriage like any other contract or investment. It’s most likely to happen when the gains are big. So we should expect marriages among low-income Americans to decline if women perceive declining gains from hitching themselves to the men around them.

That’s precisely what we’ve seen…

Low-skill men have had a rough two generations. The evaporation of manufacturing work has gutted their main source of employment, while globalization has held down their wages. Marriage has declined the most among men whose wages have declined the most. …

It is relatively easier to raise a child and keep up a home with modern household innovations. The connection between Lunchables, detergent and marriage rates is not often made. But perhaps it should be. The development of time-saving technologies – cheap prepared foods, cheap clothes, machines to wash, dry, and vacuum – has not only encouraged more women to seek work, but also made it relatively easier for single parents to raise a child. Put starkly, technology makes it cheaper and easier than ever to be single.

While marriage becomes less attractive, divorce remains popular.

From McKinley Irvin family law blog:

Around 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. The number is similarly high in many other developed nations.

When you break that down by number of marriages [in the US]:

  • 41 percent of first marriages end in divorce.
  • 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
  • 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce.

Nearly three quarters of all African-American children are born to unwed mothers.

From NBC News November 7, 2010:

Seventy-two percent of black babies are born to unmarried mothers today, according to government statistics.  …

The black community’s 72 percent rate eclipses that of most other groups: 17 percent of Asians, 29 percent of whites, 53 percent of Hispanics and 66 percent of Native Americans were born to unwed mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which government figures are available. The rate for the overall U.S. population was 41 percent.

Ideally, we would like to see the institution of marriage as a union between one man and one woman – historically, customarily, and generally for the purpose of raising children – to continue. Conservatives should – and many do – strive to preserve it. And we hold to the view that it affords (of course not invariably) the best circumstances for children to be well provided for, educated, kept in good health, and launched into adult life.

Marriage is not always – or even very often in our experience – an easy relationship. But a marriage needs to be endured when it cannot be enjoyed at least until children born into it reach young  adulthood.

Our inclination is to be for the survival of traditional marriage. But it seems to us to be a lost cause.

The very fact that a union which cannot possibly produce children because it joins two people of the same gender is now called “marriage”  is a clear proof that the ancient institution is not just fading but over and done with.

If the only requirement for a marriage to be sanctioned by the state is the wish of the contracting parties to enter into it, then not only individuals of the same sex, but groups of both (or various) sexes should be able to marry. Expect the legalization of polygamy in America and other Western countries in the not too distant future.

What will marriage then mean? Nothing really. It will give certain legal benefits to the parties, but other than that? Any different from just living together? Will it engage exceptional loyalties, devotion, duty, pertinacity, the sharing of responsibilities and rewards more than if the parties cohabited without the ceremony and documentation of marriage?  Could do. Possibly. Sometimes. Maybe as often as old marriage did? No, probably not.

Of course, if Islam conquers the West the fun will be over anyway. Sure, men will be able to have more than one wife each and as many concubines as they like. Men will be able to divorce their wives with the greatest of ease, and keep their children. But women will be married off, perhaps when they’re still pre-pubescent children themselves, to older men, and will not easily be able to divorce their husbands. Men will only be doing their religious duty if they beat their wives. Adulterers – the  females at least – will be stoned to death. Homosexuals will be executed.

So women, men, and all others – gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

  • Andrew

    I’d rather a child be raised by a gay couple rather than straight Islamic fundamentalists.

    My instincts tell me that marriage should not be the state’s business. Let the churches and mosques and synagogues and temples decide who to marry and who not to marry.

    At any rate, children have a right to know who their parents are.

  • rogerinflorida

    Yes, our society is changing.

    I attended a construction “kick-off” meeting yesterday, at which all of the construction “professionals” were present as well as the major trades. This project is for the renovation of a very high end residence, if I mentioned the Client’s name many of you would know the person.

    The Architect wore an ill fitting suit that looked like it had been piled into a corner of the utility room for weeks, bare feet and flip-flops (on a construction site!)
    The project manager wore a loose undershirt of the type colloquially known I believe, as a “wife beater”. His entire upper body was covered in multicolored tattoos depicting what seemed to be scenes from robot wars featuring children’s Saturday morning cartoon characters.
    The representative of one of the mechanical trades wore a patched and worn out dungaree overall and sported a bone through his nose.
    All of the assembled men with the exception of my son and I wore various metal items in different parts of their faces; earrings, nose rings, lip rings, etc. None seemed in the least bit surprised at the attire of the others.
    I admit my concentration suffered as I wondered when it was exactly that I had been abducted and brought to this planet, and when the hell could I go home.
    I could not help but recollect my first project engineering meetings many years ago. Everybody wore a white shirt, some with studs to allow for detachable collars. Women were a rarity at these meetings and if in attendance were politely received but regarded as an oddity.
    Apropos the article; we were all married, engaged to be married or hoping to be married. We particularly favored shirts with breast pockets into which we would place our pocket protector and the obligatory pens with red, green, blue and black ink, and a pencil, with HB lead (although I preferred B lead, but then I always was a bit of a rebel.)
    I have no idea where all this is heading except to say that it seems to me that our wealth has allowed us to forget discipline, personal responsibility, our history and most importantly our future.
    But then humanity has shown an incredible survival instinct, although without children and the commitment to nurture and care for them survival may not be possible.

    • Jillian Becker

      Your points are well taken, rogerinflorida.

      I may want to quote (approvingly) parts of your comment for a front page post – something I’m mulling over.

      Would you have any objection?

      • rogerinflorida

        Do what you would like to do?
        I am fine with any decision you make.

  • liz

    Yes, its very ironic that marriage, which Christians consider a “biblical” institution, actually developed out of polygamy which is evidenced in the Bible. And now, because of the demands of our modern permissive society, seems on the way to becoming polygamy again.
    Yet this whole development – coming full circle, as it were – has happened before Muslims even developed out of the ancient version of it. So they will undoubtedly push for polygamy, but as you note, it won’t be the kind anyone else had in mind.

  • Azgael

    There is also a push starting to legalize pedophilia, some so called academics are saying its like a sexual orientation.

    • Jillian Becker

      Thank you for reminding us of this, Azgael. There is indeed such a push. It is utterly deplorable.

      • Frank

        All the different variations of marriage such as polygamy, polyandry, and open marriage etc. all take place between consenting adults. There may be a push by Nambla to legalize pedophilia but that will never happen because one of the parties is a child and cannot legally give consent.

        • liz

          Oh, just wait – these so called “academics” will come up with intellectual sounding reasons why its actually good for children. It will become necessary to their proper psychological development, etc., etc…