marriage

marriage

Quantitative Social Sciences: In the Service of the Good, the True and (Maybe) the Beautiful

children, marriage, social science No comments

The social sciences, well done, cannot but illustrate the way God made man, or the way man is designed by nature.  ‘Well done’ means methodologically well done: well informed by statistical, mathematical and logic sciences.

While man is free to choose he is not free to choose the consequences; they are built into the choices made.  The social sciences can observe his choice (e.g. the choice to abort, or to marry, or to finish high school) and the consequences that flow from these choices.  In this they illustrate some aspects of natural law in action (moral law in action) by making the connection between choice and consequences.

Longitudinal surveys (where the same people are tracked over time) are the most valuable for good social science.  In them one can observe the choice and measure the pathway the person set in motion and the consequences that ensue over time, even over a life time if the survey continues long enough.

Of course, over time myriad factors modify such pathways.   Sometimes new choices are choices that deliberately reverse pathways: by overcoming an addiction; by divorcing; even by remarrying the person they divorced!

What these instances illustrate is the difficulty of ‘PROVING’ causation, in the layman’s understanding of X choice caused Y outcome.   Rather than supporting a determinist view of man, the social sciences support a “modifiable” view of man.  For most of us this comports with our commonsense knowledge of ourselves: we can change, but only gradually in most instances.  And quick changes most often evaporate rather quickly too.  Desirable changes are growth in virtue, which happens slowly and only with repeated acts, repeated over long periods.  Bad habits can form much more quickly as many addicts can attest.

The social sciences are social – to state the obvious, but an obvious truth forgotten most of the time by most of us, especially we Americans and those who hew to a radical individualism.  Man is deeply relational and needs the support of those around him to keep doing what he does.  If we change our social environment (those we relate to) we can change our behavior more easily.  Thus to become holy some choose the company of others determined to achieve the same and enter a monastery, or deliberately choose a spouse who is intent on the same goal.

But children, the most socially dependent of all of us, do not get to choose their own company, their parents, their siblings, nor the neighborhood they live in.  So it is rare for them to rise above the average behavior of their surroundings. It is possible but it is rare. How rare: check out the bell curve.  Most are in the middle, very few at the extremes.

Being deeply relational we are most easily influenced when we are young. Hence parents’ concern to choose good schools, especially schools where the behavior of the other children comports with what they would like to see in their own.  Good teachers in poor neighborhoods are thus some of the most valuable people in a nation: the ones who help those parents who are trying to give their children a leg up. They are the unsung heroes of the social infrastructure.

Good parents are careful to seeks and choose modifiers of their children’s’ behavior (or more precisely), they choose the environment (the social relationships) that will shape their children’s’ behavior.

Thus good parents (along with good teachers) are the “investors” in the future. They are the ones who work to have their children surpass them, to rise further in the next generation, not only in education and income (a common desire of parents) but in virtue and strength, in love, chastity and fidelity. That is how the social infrastructure is built and rebuilt.

Thus the social sciences, in their own way, inform us about the moral dimension of man’s behavior: about good and bad behaviors (though that language is too strong, too politically incorrect for the majority of social scientists; desirable / undesirable, functional / dysfunctional are more acceptable labels).  But no matter the labels, the social sciences tend to flush out those conditions in which man thrives or wilts and the pathways thereto.

Thus they are in the service of the good and the true.  It would be nice to say they are in the service of the beautiful but even for those who love the social sciences that may be a bit of a stretch, for the beauty of good people is hard to see behind the numbers and graphs of the social sciences.  Maybe such capacities will emerge in the future, but for now readers of the social sciences will have to do with merely the true and the good.

Do We Have a Black Woman Nobel Laureate in One of Our Inner Cities?

children, fathers, marriage, mothers No comments

Children are deeply relational beings–and depending on how that dimension is fulfilled for them by their parents they become competent human beings–or not.  Nurturing relationships early on makes “being a human being” a happy experience for them.  A mother, in the very close, comforting and warm nurturance of breast feeding, the foundational experience on entering a world that it is a good and nice place to be in.  This anchors a child in reality.  If a child is cursed with this early experience being a harsh one that child will retreat into life-long psychosis or milder forms of damaging self-defense from a harsh world.

Plenty of belonging leads to plenty of thriving.  A good culture, and a good nation devotes massive energy to ensuring plenty of belonging for its children: it is the sine qua non of its continued thriving as a culture and as a nation.

The core of such a culture is the marriage vow “till death us do part”, that vow by which fathers and mothers have bound themselves in perpetual belonging so that the children who will come have total reassurance as to whom and to where they belong.  That vow gives everyone a norm and a structure around which to build a highly functional society.  It absence indicates a body without a spine.

The other end of the spectrum which has belonging on one end is rejection. The norm and the “structure” around which rejection is built is sex outside of, or before, the marriage vow.   Its results are a national and cultural wilting instead of a thriving.  Rejection comes in many forms but for the building or, in this case, the deconstruction of society, rejection deep within the family is the natural and most common consequence of sex outside of marriage: out of wedlock births where most parents eventually end up rejecting each other; cohabitation with similar results for a large portion; and of course infidelity within marriage.  Abortion also is most frequently the product of out of wedlock sex (roughly 80%).

No matter which way society goes on matters sexual there are high costs for the two different pathways.

The costs of the pathway of traditional intact marriage are high for the individual requiring chastity (see last week blog); requiring that one pushes through the difficulties of marriage, no matter the burden; requiring fidelity (and in the process, requiring continued personal struggle and growth towards an even greater maturity lasting all the way their sixties and beyond – to the end).  The demands on the individual are high — but the benefits for them, their children and society are enormous.  The price of their struggle is more than well repaid.

The pathway of rejection does not make these demands on the individual; it is premised on avoiding them, on personal autonomy and “free choice”.  But it does demand a price:  the aborting of children (and America has, in the last 75 years, aborted the equivalent of one sixth of its present population); divorce and all its attendant consequences on adults and on children; out of wedlock births and all of its consequences , which for our inner cities, are now compounding through the fourth and even fifth generation.  For society at large the price is high in more school failure and drop out; more crime and addictions, more ill health and disease; shorter lifespan; much higher health costs; much higher education costs; much higher policing and criminal justice system costs; more poverty and less income; less savings; harsher old-age; more loneliness and suicide.   Even though the individuals who choose this pathway pay their own heavy price in the longer term, the premise of this culture is “I will make my choice – others can pay for the consequences.”  At its core this sexual pathway is anti-community, anti-child, anti-marriage and ultimately anti-cultural and, ironically, destructive of the individual who chooses that route.

A macro cost/benefit comparison between the two pathways leads quickly to a “slam dunk” winner.

Because these two different pathways demand very different cultures and, ultimately, very different political orders, we pay another price: civil strife and a growing gap between those who hold to the first pathway and those to the second.

Trying to make these two pathways work together causes one to daydream about solutions such as political geographies that permit one culture to work and pay for its way and the other to work and pay for its way.

But in such solutions one pathway would have to give up its foundational premise “I make my choice, the state (meaning everyone else, all the taxpayers) can pay for it.”  If the rejection pathway had its own political order and geographic community structures they would have to shoulder their own costs, and five minutes reflection by anyone, liberal or conservative, shows that is not possible for they would be bankrupt within a generation – in twenty five years or less.

But within that dilemma lies the seed of reform: achieve more and more ways of making folk of the second pathway aware of the cost to themselves and their children.   I bet that most single parent grandmothers in the inner city wish their grandchildren could take the “belonging till death us do part” pathway, the pathway of faithful marriage, even if they cannot see the way for that to happen.

It is from such grandmothers that the seeds of a “belonging America” can sprout.  On these issues no one has more authority, for they have the authority of suffering and pain, the authority of the victimhood of their grandchildren – should they learn how to harness it.  Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan of Belfast started the healing in Northern Ireland by harnessing similar suffering among mothers.  Is there a Betty Williams in one of our inner cities who could say for marriage in America what Williams, in her Nobel Laureate speech, said for peace in Northern Ireland:

“A deep sense of frustration at the mindless stupidity of the continuing violence was already evident before the tragic events of that sunny afternoon of August 10, 1976. But the deaths of those four young people in one terrible moment of violence caused that frustration to explode, and create the possibility of a real peace movement. As far as we are concerned, every single death in the last eight years, and every death in every war that was ever fought represents life needlessly wasted, a mother’s labor spurned.”

Can the price that our American children are paying, particularly our inner-city poor children are paying, draw forth that brilliant Black grandmother hidden somewhere in one of our cities?  That grandmother has a moral authority no one else can aspire to … and hundreds of thousands will follow should she give proper voice and they can begin the end to our American stupidity.

The Three Love Diet

children, love, marriage No comments

There is a very simple fact that social scientists have neglected to make clear to the country: Only a fraction of our children are fully nurtured, relationally, because of the breakdown in family structure over the last fifty years: Children in single parent homes get a one-love diet while children in always-intact married families get a three-love diet.

Only one adult love is present in the single parent family while three adult loves are present in the always intact married family (the love of mother, the love of father and the love between mother and father). The love between mother and father is especially powerful. It makes a big difference in their lives and to the social infrastructure of the county. One set of adults can bear a lot more weight and traffic than the other. For instance: just one of the many critical tasks is the modeling of living in a world of male and female where both cooperate on serious and significant tasks. The child raised in the single parent family has less chance of learning that. These are uncomfortable facts, but facts nonetheless. And they have huge consequences.

Some will object, with good reasons, that the single parent family can produce strong adults–and many do. But, on average, the children of single parent families do not become as strong as adults as do the children of married parents (even as single parents often give heroically of all the love they have). This is tough for many to take and in academia many still deny it. It is a sad and strange phenomenon but many social science professors are quite anti-scientific; they deny or avoid the disquieting data as a form of short-sighted ‘kindness’.

On average the single-love diet cannot deliver what the three-love diet does.   How do we as a society move from the single love diet to the three love diet for all children? The answer: restoration of a culture based on – bear with me — chastity. Without a culture of chastity society does not get a culture of strong marriages. Folk may laugh but there is no alternative and savvy parents, single or married, work hard to transmit this to their children for everybody’s sake—for the young folk’s own future, the future of the grandchildren, and for a more peaceful old age future for the grandparents.

What makes it possible for an adolescent to come up with such a resolve? How do we grow such young people? Parents cultivate it be they married or single by telling the truth about the relationship between chastity and life-long love between a man and a woman. And the data show that teenagers (deep down) welcome their parents when they raise these issues.

Single parents have a tougher task here, and it is therefore one of the most critical projects for our society. There is a need for a movement among single parents, a movement to raise chaste children, chaste teenagers so that they will have the happiness of being at the wedding of their children, and their grandchildren. Such a movement needs alongside it a solidarity movement of everyone else to cheer them on and help them. This is the infrastructure work we need most if we are to have future citizens who can take over running a country.

It is amazing how sex, children, marriage, chastity and the future are all intertwined. It is time for all families to link together to pull this off for the next generation. Everything else in society is connected to this. Everything.

The Infrastructure that Donald Trump Can Do Little About

elections, family, marriage, religion No comments

The election results stimulated myriad projections for change about the political and economic future, but at the foundational levels of society, marriage and worship, nothing changed this past week.

Political elections are about who gets to control the instruments of power.  But the fundamental work of rebuilding society from the ground up — restoring marriage and turning back to worshipping God weekly — remains in a realm beyond the instrumental tools of government. These fundamentals, so necessary for a functional society, remain untouched by the elections.

And yet the need to change these fundamentals is critical if the goods of politics are to bear fruit.  Otherwise it is all for naught in the medium to long term.  One good revolution (French, Russian, Chinese or Cambodian) can wipe out a lot overnight.

Marriage and religious practice are all about “belonging” — belonging to spouse and children and to God.  But belonging is not something we can manufacture for others, and it certainly is not something government can distribute, transfer or manufacture.  Belonging is the result of attraction — a fulfilled two-way attraction.  However, and this is key, it can start as a one-way attraction.  Many a brave man has proven this by wooing, and eventually winning, the reluctant woman of his dreams.  “Faint heart never won fair lady.”   She gradually came to see how attractive he really was.  But no man (not even the most radical of progressives) has ever turned to government to help him be more attractive to the woman of his dreams.  So to where and to whom do we turn for this rebuilding, this “sine qua non” of social policy, if not to government?  Is not social policy all about government?

This is the fundamental political question for all who want to see society get back on track.  Donald Trump can wield political instruments that will affect the economy, the army, medicine and even education (to a degree), but neither he nor his cabinet can improve marriage or levels of worship through policy initiatives. Yet, of all aspects of the United States, these are the “infrastructure” that needs rebuilding.

This family belonging, which is only full of its power when it means marital belonging between mother and father, is the glue that holds society together.  This lies, not in the realm of government (except to protect or destroy), but in the realm of “the people”.  Belonging is beyond the reach or competence of government.  Sure, big government can do and has done lots to wreck it–as in abortion, in sex education that undermines chastity and marriage, in laws that removed restraints on sex outside of marriage, or in liberal Supreme Courts, such as one that would have occurred under Hillary Clinton, that injects such principles into the legal system.  But the work of rebuilding lies in the heart of the citizen, not in the powers of government.

The social infrastructure of every inner city needs to be rebuilt. It depends on the capacity of millennials to stay married, to grow when adversity hits a marriage so that they mature into strong adults rather than wimp into a rejection that damages their children. Who can do that? Certainly not the instruments of government.

We can only turn to ourselves, and within ourselves to God.  We either attract others to chastity, marriage and worship or we repel them.  We are all either walking advertisements for marriage or effective propaganda against it. People expect a deep joy (even in painful times — especially in painful times) from marriage and family: we either deliver on this in our personal lives or we don’t.  Belonging is caught by contact, by seeing it, by experiencing it up close.  By being invited in.

Belonging is a very different social policy paradigm, but it is the only one that works.

Cohabitation is NOT the Same as Marriage

cohabitation, marriage, media 3 comments

The media got it wrong again. A well-conducted study by Sarah Mernitz and Claire Kamp Dush of Ohio State University shows that transitions into relationships, especially direct marriage, alleviate emotional distress. But reporters cherry-picked data to claim the study shows that cohabitation is no different from marriage. This is false.

Four findings from this study, which does the best it can with rather limited measures, were not reported by mainline media:

  1. Not surprisingly, transitions into all romantic unions give an “emotional lift” (Note that an “emotional lift” is not the same as love—a distinction the authors fail to make).
  2. Marriage gives bigger emotional lifts.
  3. Both men and women gain significant emotional lifts; sometimes the women more than the men, sometimes the men more than the women.
  4. All romantic unions gain an emotional lift from having a baby – sometimes for the fathers more than the mothers. 

Bottom lines: 

  1. Marriage is best if you are looking for an emotional lift.  
  2. Newborns give an emotional lift, especially with second partners. 
  3. The poor need lots of help: no relationship seems to relieve their distress. 

Most disturbing is the plight of the poor.  We know from many other studies that many of the poor (if not most) come from a long line of alienated parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.  We need geniuses or saints to show us how to help them.

~~~~~~~~~~

There are two important methodological considerations to accurately interpret this study. First, it focuses on relationship transitions. It measures mental health at the initiation of a new relationship (cohabitation, direct marriage, or marriage after cohabiting), and does not indicate the long-term stability or well-being of relationship types. Second, Mernitz and Kamp Dush’s study evaluates emotional distress only, and does not give a holistic assessment of well-being or relationship quality.

Mernitz and Kamp Dush’s research shows that women benefit emotionally more than men when transitioning into any type of first union relationship; however, women benefit more from marriage and most from a direct marriage. This finding is not surprising. New relationships–no matter what the type–tend to be fun and exciting, thereby reducing emotional distress.

Mernitz and Kamp Dush’s study also confirms the emotional lift gained by having children. For men transitioning into their first romantic union (cohabiting or direct marriage), having a child has a stronger emotional impact than having full time employment or a college degree. Women who enter a cohabiting relationship or first marriage also experience an emotional lift from childbearing. Interestingly, the sex differences are flipped for individuals in their second union. For women entering a cohabiting relationship, having a child decreases emotional distress more than having full time employment or a college degree. Women who enter a direct marriage or marry after cohabiting also reap significant benefits from having a child. Although males in their second union also obtain emotional benefits from having a child, their emotional benefits are not as significant as women’s.

Interestingly, this study raises some important considerations for poorer communities (as indicated by those with less than a high school degree), where intact married families are rare. Poorer women experience less emotional distress when they directly enter marriage for their first romantic union, whereas poorer men experience less distress when cohabiting. For second romantic unions, both men and women experience the least emotional distress if they enter a cohabiting relationship. These sentiments are problematic for the poor community. Research shows that marriage encourages economic mobility, and decreases government dependency. The anti-marriage bias of the welfare system revokes assistance for couples who marry. Therefore, the government imposes stressors for those who marry.

It is important to note that Mernitz and Kamp Dush’s study does not measure love. Love transcends emotional highs and lows and is first really tested when emotions turn sour.  Emotional status is a good indicator of temporary well-being, and has a place in examining transitions into relationships. However, for journalists and reporters to categorically declare that cohabitation is equivalent to marriage is untrue of the study and is shoddy reporting at best. Moreover it totally ignores repeated and compelling research that illustrates the superior benefits of stable marital unions.

~~~~~~~~~~

For those interested, what follow is a more detailed summary of the study’s findings:

For First Romantic Unions:

  • Women emotionally benefit more than men from transitioning into a relationship. 
  • Women and men both benefit the most from entering a direct marriage (compared to entering a cohabiting relationship, or entering marriage after cohabiting).

Controlling for Education

  • Across all education levels, women who enter a direct marriage experience more emotional benefits than women who transition into a cohabiting relationship or enter a marriage after cohabiting. There is one exception: women with more than a college degree have the best health benefits when they enter a marriage after cohabiting.
  • Men follow less of a pattern: men with less than a high school degree benefit the most from entering a cohabiting relationship; those with some college benefit most from transitioning into marriage from cohabitation; those with a college degree benefit the most from entering a cohabiting relationship; and men with more than a college degree benefit the most from marrying after cohabiting.

Controlling for Employment

  • Men who are unemployed, men who are employed full time, and men who had a child all emotionally benefit the most from entering into a direct marriage.
  • For women the results are more mixed: women who are unemployed emotionally benefit the most from marrying after cohabiting; women who are employed full time benefit most from entering a cohabiting relationship; and women who had a child benefit the most from entering into a cohabiting relationship.

For Second Romantic Unions:

  • Men emotionally benefit more than women from entering into a cohabiting relationship.
  • Women benefit more than men from directly marrying.
  • Men benefit more than women from marrying after cohabiting.
  • Both men and women emotionally benefit the most from marrying after cohabiting.

Controlling for Education

  • Men and women with less than a high school degree experience the least emotional distress when they enter a cohabiting relationship.
  • Women who have some college, a college degree, or more than a college degree experience the greatest emotional benefit from entering into a direct marriage (sometimes tied with marrying after cohabiting).
  • Men who have some college, a college degree, or more than a college degree experience the greatest emotional benefit from entering into a direct marriage.

Controlling for Employment

  • For women who are unemployed, entering a direct marriage produces the best emotional benefits; for women who are employed, entering a cohabiting relationship produces the best benefits.
  • For men who are unemployed, entering a direct marriage produces the best emotional outcomes; for men who are employed, marrying after cohabiting produces the best outcomes.
  • For women who had a child, entering a cohabiting relationship decreases emotional distress the most; for men who had a child marrying after cohabiting decreases emotional distress the most.

Violence in Baltimore Report

Baltimore, family structure, marriage, violence 1 comment

This week, MARRI released a report looking at the social science behind the violence in Baltimore. This report offers a different outlook on the social issues surrounding Baltimore than many other institutions. It shows that family intactness, education, and economic outcomes are a far higher predictor of violence and crime than race. The following is an excerpt from that report:

There is a clear and even desperate need to restore marriage among the poor in inner-city Baltimore. This task, however, is beyond the competence of government. That is not a fault in government—it is the nature of the problem.  No one goes to government for love.

Marital stability depends on affection, care, loyalty and sexual fidelity, which is formed in the home. If the City Councils, the State of Maryland, or federal Cabinet members want to combat the social collapse of American cities, they must ask parents, church leaders, school principals and teachers to take on this work of the mind and heart.

An impoverished boy from inner-city Baltimore will not escape criminal activity because the city of Baltimore receives a stimulus bill from the President; he will escape it if a caring teacher, compassionate pastor, or thoughtful adult mentors him so that he feels the support necessary to finish school, work at a job, and marry the mother of his children.

Government is not capable of doing everything, and clearly does not know how to heal the social brokenness of such communities.  It will continue to fail the youth of Baltimore unless it looks to other institutions—the church, the school, the family and the influential business leaders—to restore the family by restoring marriage in inner city Baltimore.  Until that day comes the problems will only worsen; but when that day does come hope will already have arrived.

To read our entire analysis on the violence in Baltimore, visit our website: http://www.marri.us/baltimore-violence

Debunking Three Cohabitation Myths

cohabitation, marriage No comments

Cohabitation does not replace marriage. Instead, it lays the groundwork for breaking up many marriages. Further, it significantly lacks the benefits of marriage. Despite this, the percentage of women who have ever cohabited has almost doubled over the past 25 years. A number of myths about cohabitation have blinded couples to its harmful realities.

Myth #1: Cohabitation is necessary to “test-drive” a marriage, and will produce stronger marriages by allowing couples to determine whether they are compatible living partners.
Fact: According to the American College of Pediatricians, cohabitation increases the risk of divorce by 50 percent, and is associated with lower marital satisfaction, dedication, and confidence.

Couples sometimes claim that cohabiting allows them to determine whether they can tolerate their partner’s everyday habits such as not doing the dishes or picking up their dirty laundry. But this “test-drive” takes out the commitment necessary for marriage to work; it separates fidelity from love. It may speak more of distrust when trust is the foundation of all successful marriages. If dirty dishes or laundry could break up the relationship, then neither the couple’s love nor trust nor commitment is very deep.

Myth #2: Cohabitation is cost effective because it allows couples to pool their finances.
Fact: Cohabitation is financially risky, and lacks the financial benefits of marriage.

At first glance cohabitation appears financially practical: half the rent, half the utilities, maybe even half the grocery bill. But cohabitation also creates many complicated financial decisions: splitting bills between two partners with different incomes, choosing a name to put on the lease, agreeing who owns the furniture in the case of a split. Cohabitating relationships have the uncertainty of dating joined to the dependence needed for marriage—a hazardous mix.

Furthermore, cohabitation does not provide the same economic benefits found in marriage. According to MARRI research, cohabiters grow their net worth less than all other family structures. On average, cohabiting men have less stable employment histories than single and married men, and cohabiting fathers are less likely to have consistent, full-time work than are married fathers.

Myth #3: Cohabitation is a great way for busy couples to spend more time together.
Fact: The American College of Pediatricians found that cohabitation before marriage is associated with increased negative communication, couples spending less time together, and men spending more time on personal leisure.

Thus when unmarried couples live together they are less likely to go on dates and get to know one another, and more likely to go about their individual activities in each other’s presence. For many this breeds resentment and moves them further away from marriage.

Many couples see the frequency of celebrity divorces and resort to cohabitation to avoid a similar fate. Marriage has been disparaged as complicated and short-lived, while cohabitation has been exalted as simple and easy. The truth is, however, most of these divorced celebrity couples experienced an unstable marriage because they cohabited and had multiple sexual partners prior to that marriage.  In contrast to cohabitation, marriage—and reserving sex for marriage—is the best way to secure a loyal, loving, and lasting marriage.

Census Report on Marriage Trends

Census data, marriage No comments

The most beneficial family structure is that of the intact family. This structure, however, is declining in practice for many Americans. The Census Bureau recently released data on marriage taken from the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. The findings revealed that between the year 1996 and 2008-2012 there has been an increase in individuals choosing to never marry and an increase in remarriages among women. Simultaneously there has been a decrease in individuals who are married only once.

The percent of females getting married once between 1996 and 2008-2012 decreased from 60 percent to 54 percent. During the same time those who had never married increased from 24 percent to 28 percent. Finally, women who had been married twice (remarried once) grew from 13 percent to 14 percent.

These trends are also found in men. Between 1996 and 2008-2012 the proportion of men who were only married once decreased from 54 percent to 50 percent. Men who had never married increased from 31 percent to 34 percent.

In summary there is a notable downturn in the number of people choosing to create intact married families. Neither remarriage nor choosing not to marry allows for the plethora of benefits that come from an intact married family. Children from intact married families have less behavioral problems, better social development, better education, better child-parent relationships, and less criminal activity. For adults, the benefits of an intact marriage include: sexual satisfaction, incomehealth and many others. Given what is now well known about the benefits of intact marriage for adults and children these developments predict an even weaker American population as the adults age and the children reach a more stunted maturity… the America of the future.

The Marriage Divide

inequality, marriage No comments

Forget class and race; the real cultural divide lies in marriage.

Increasingly, those who marry are among the best educated, the wealthiest, the healthiest, and the most religious in society. Marriage fosters economic security and educational attainment (two key determinants of social class), and prepares children for their future romantic relationships. Marriage is also a good attainable by people of all races, social classes, and religious creeds. It seems odd, then, that such an accessible and stable institution could possibly give rise to inequality.

The problem is, marriage and sexual mores are idealized and pursued disproportionately in society. In his 2012 book, Coming Apart, Charles Murray concludes that upper-class whites have held steadfast to America’s founding virtues while middle-class and poor whites have largely abandoned these core principles. Because individuals tend to self-select communities and relationships with like-minded people, the sociocultural divide between those who marry and those who do not has compounded with each new generation. 

Recently released publications from the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), “The Index of Belonging and Rejection” and “The State of the Black Family,” confirms that Murray’s thesis applies to the black community as well. There are two phenomena at work: the adversities of broken, non-married families are  exacerbated with each  generation, and the gap between the married and  the non-married increases in education, wealth, health, and religion. The marriage divide is particularly big in the black community because marriage has been retained and celebrated by its most educated and avoided by its least educated—a trend that has grown worse over the decades. Between 1950 and 2012, the fraction of black 15 to 17 year olds raised in by their always-married parents dropped from 38 percent to 17 percent.  Even more alarming, between 1950 and 2012 the number of black two year olds with always-married parents was cut in half (from 62 percent to 30 percent). In laymen’s terms, only 30 percent of black children begin their life with their married parents; only 30 percent of young black children experience the security and belonging of an intact family, while 70 percent experience their parents rejection of each other, which leads to the brokenness of a non-intact family.

MARRI research also shows that those in intact families outperform their counterparts on social outcome measures. For both black men and women aged 35-40, the highest fraction of professional graduates were raised by married parents, whereas the highest number of high school drop-outs were raised by an always-single parent. Black men, women, teenagers, and children who were raised in always-single households had the highest rate of poverty of all family structures. Always single black men and women, as well as children raised by such parents, receive the greatest proportion of government aid, including: SSI, SSDI, TANF, Welfare, and Food Stamps.

Increasing marriage across all social strata is a prerequisite for reducing poverty and inequality in America.

The Black Family: America’s Opportunity

black family, inequality, marriage No comments

“America is free to choose whether the Negro shall remain her liability or become her opportunity.” –Gunnar Myrda, An American Dilemma (1944)

Exactly fifty years ago Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his prophetic report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” In 1965 when the report was written, Moynihan warned that the black family was in crisis: 23.6 percent of blacks were born illegitimately (1963), 21 percent of non-white families had female heads-of-household, and only a minority of black children reached age 18 having always lived with their married parents. But the state of the black family in America today surpasses Moynihan’s worst fears: 72.2 percent of blacks are born out-of-wedlock, 50 percent of black children live with their mother only, and only 17 percent of black children reach adulthood having always lived with married parents.

The racial dynamic of America in 2012 is now most complex. One Civil War, three Constitutional Amendments, hundreds of legislative/ juridical decisions, and thousands of protests later, and African Americans still rate disproportionately low on a number of social outcome measures.

Unable to explain this phenomenon otherwise, many have blamed a covert but pervasive racism in America. Although this may be true for some perverted individuals, it is not the case of the majority of Americans. There is a different and powerful culprit at work.    

By common sense the straightforward way to eliminate an adverse outcome is to mitigate its cause; otherwise, one is only providing temporary treatment rather than a permanent solution. Black social ills have been temporarily treated rather than permanently resolved. During the horrible days of the slave trade, black families were ripped apart—fathers were taken from their children, and wives were left to run households. Blacks still do not have informal equality of opportunity because the broken black family—the real root problem of their social ills—has yet to heal. Relief programs like affirmative action are insufficient solutions because blacks are neither less intelligent nor less capable of working than whites, Hispanics, Asians, or any other race. Rather, many black children are never given the opportunity to fully harness their potential because they suffer the rejection of a broken family and its attendant misfortunates. The real relief the black community needs is an immediate and radical resurgence of intact marriage and all that is necessary to achieve that.

The importance of family structure is underlined in two recent publications released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI): “The State of the Black Family in America” and “The Index of Belonging and Rejection.” For both black men and women (aged 35 to 40), the highest number of high school drop-outs were always-single, while the highest number of professional graduates were married. Black men, women, teenagers, and children who were raised in always-single households had the highest rate of poverty of all family structures. Correspondingly, 61 percent of black females and 51 percent of black males receiving TANF or welfare are in always-single families, and 49 percent of black children whose household receives food stamps were being raised by an always-single parent. Currently, only 17 percent of black 15- to 17-year-olds on the cusp of adulthood have been raised by always-married-parents since birth.

The state of the African American family explains why racial gaps have, in a sense, widened even though formal discrimination has ended. The government depends on the intact family to achieve its goals, but the intact black family is close to absent, except among highly educated blacks. According to the Fifth Annual Index of Belonging, the number of black teens (15- to 17-years-old) that grew up in intact families dropped from 38 percent in 1950 to 17 percent in 2012. In other words, 21 percent fewer teens have the security of a stable, intact family.

Given this disintegration of the black family, it is no wonder that blacks rank disproportionately low on a number of “ordinary good-life” outcomes. The pernicious effects of family rejection have been compounded across generations and seep into the wider community and its ethos. Children of broken families are more likely to pass their problems on to their own children, and, overtime these adverse outcomes spill over into society at large.

Despite the failure of social policy, there is a solution to this vicious cycle: the Black Church. African Americans are among the most frequent church-goers. Recently, however, many churches have become lackadaisical in promulgating Christ’s teachings on chastity and marriage. Social policy has proven useless in correcting the ills of family rejection and brokenness, but the Church certainly can if it has the will. A deep conversion and close following of Christ and His teaching on purity, family values, brotherly love, and communal service are the key ingredients to raising the black family to its rightful integrity. In turn, the black community can then hold the rest of America to this new standard. This is the exemplary role of the black community, and the leadership opportunity that beckons the Black Church.