Reasons for promoting Marriage
In Favour of Marriage
Extract from an article in The Economist May 26th 2007
Marriage in America.
Marriage itself is a ‘wealth-generating institution’. Those who marry ’till death do us part’ end up, on average, four times richer than those who never marry. Marriage affects the way people behave.
Married men drink less, take fewer drugs and work harder, earning between 10% and 40% more than single men with similar schooling and job histories. And marriage encourages both spouses to save and invest more for the future.
Looking at all the women who had become pregnant outside marriage. Those who married before the baby was six months old were only half as likely to be raising their children in poverty five years later as those who did not.
Children of the sexual revolution
Since the 1960s the easy availability of reliable contraception has helped to spur a revolution in sexual mores. As opportunities for women opened up in the workplace, giving them an incentive to delay child-bearing, a little pill let them do just that without sacrificing sex. At the same time, better job opportunities for women changed the balance of power within marriage. Wives became less economically dependent on their husbands, so they found it easier to walk out of unhappy or abusive relationships.
As the sexual revolution gathered steam, the idea that a nuclear family was the only acceptable environment in which to raise a child crumbled. The social stigma around single motherhood, which was intense before the 1960s, has faded (apart from in school teachers’ minds). But attitudes still vary by class.
College educated women typically see single motherhood as a distant second best to marriage. If they have babies out of wedlock, it is usually because they have not yet got round to marrying the man they are living with. Or because, finding themselves single and nearly 40, they decide they cannot wait for Mr Right and so seek a sperm donor. By contrast, many of America’s least educated women live in neighbourhoods where single motherhood is the norm. And when they have babies outside marriage, they are typically younger than their middle-class counterparts, in less stable relationships and less prepared for what will follow.
Most children in single parent homes ‘grow up without serious problems’. But they are more than five times as likely to be poor as those who live with two biological parents (26% against 5%). Children who do not live with both biological parents are also roughly twice as likely to drop out of high school and to have behavioural or psychological problems. Even after controlling for race, family background and IQ, children of single mothers do worse in school than children of married parents.
Co-habiting couples have the same number of hands as married couples, so they ought to make equally good parents. Many do, but on average the children of co-habiting couples do worse by nearly every measure. One reason is that such relationships are less stable than marriages. In America, they last about two years on average. About half end in marriage. But those who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce.
Two-thirds of American children born to co-habiting parents who later marry will see their parents split up by the time they are ten. Those born within wedlock face only half that risk.
The likeliest explanation is inertia. Couples start living together because it is more fun (and cheaper) than living apart. One parent may see this as a prelude to marriage. The other – usually the man – may see it as something more temporary. Since no explicit commitment is made, it is easier to drift into living together than it is to drift (or be steered) into a marriage. But once a couple is living together, it is harder to split up than if they were merely dating. So ‘many of these men end up married to women they would not have married if they hadn’t been living together,’ says Mr Stanley, co-author of a paper called ‘Sliding versus Deciding!’