Why the Death-of-Marriage Crowd Is Wrong

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why the Death-of-Marriage Crowd Is Wrong

When the Census Bureau reported recently that married couples make less than a majority of all U.S. households, conservatives seized on it to amplify their complaints that marriage is a fragile, endangered institution. Not so, argues Christine Whelan, an author who wrote this column in Friday's Wall Street Journal.

Whelan contends:
... Marriage is a priority for most Americans — more than 90% of American adults eventually marry — but these days it may not happen, as it so often did before, in the immediate post-high-school or post-college years.

The truth is that we're marrying later — and marrying smarter. The institution of marriage is alive and well in 2006.

... surveys since the middle of the 20th century consistently reveal that three-quarters of men and women report that a good marriage is "extremely important" to them — and an even higher percentage report positive feelings about being married.

That women are attaining higher levels of education is a major reason for this later-marriage trend.

... In fact, increased education leads to better marriages and stronger families. College graduates are less likely to divorce — and more specifically, families with highly educated mothers are half as likely to split.
For better or for worse, smart men and smart women tend to seek and find each other. Whelan writes:
... 71% of men who earn in the top 10% for their age groups, or who have a graduate degree, said that a woman's career or educational success makes her more desirable as a wife, and 68% believe that smart women make better mothers.

... there is no denying that the social norms of marriage are changing. Young people haven't had to marry to have sex for a long time ... So when young men and women think about getting married, they are actually looking for love.

Rather than decrying the death of marriage, one might actually take the more optimistic view that later marriage and a more educated population lead to richer, more permanent unions than ever before.

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