Click Here to download the FULL REPORT: 164 Reasons to Marry


Executive Summary:

164 Reasons to Marry

Pat Fagan, Anne Dougherty, and Miriam McElvain

February 8, 2012

Marriage is the foundational relationship for all of society. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is simultaneously a close and a closed husband-wife relationship. Good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies, for they are the foundations of strong families. One can see this strength manifested at the national and state level, as indicated in other works of the authors, such as the Index of Family Belonging and Rejection and its relationship to various outcomes.[1]

The future of the human race and all its component societies is embodied in each newborn. Whether that newborn grows to be a strong, capable adult depends much on the marriage of his parents. Whether he is physically strong; whether she is intelligent; whether he is hardworking or a dropout; whether she will be mentally healthy and happy; whether he will be more educated; whether she will marry in her own turn; whether he will be a taxpayer or a drain on the commons; whether she enjoys her own sexuality to the full; whether he worships and prays; whether she has children and how many; whether he finishes high school and goes to college or learns a trade; whether she is law-abiding; whether he grows old with a family surrounding him-all these most desirable outcomes (common goods) are strongly connected to the strength of the marriage of that child’s parents.

The findings herein demonstrate that in marriage are contained all the five basic institutions, all the basic tasks, of society: family, church, school, marketplace and government. These fundamental tasks, well done, in unity between father and mother, make for a very good marriage. Within a family built on such a marriage, the child gradually learns to value and perform these five fundamental tasks of every competent adult and of every functional society. Gradually he is mentored in them, often unconsciously. Gradually she learns that she is expected to act similarly. Eventually, he and she become more and more expert in performing all five tasks. In other words, they gradually grow in competence and are ready to strike out into society and, eventually, to build their own family. How they do that will depend much on what they experienced in growing up in their families of origin.

With fewer than half our children now reaching the end of childhood in an intact married family,[2]it will be good for all adolescents to learn again and again that an intact married life is a great good to aim for. If they are clear on the goal, they may be motivated to reach it. Just as the children who grew up in the Great Depression became the wealthiest generation in history, maybe we can hope that the children who experienced so much rejection between their parents will become the greatest generation of parents who belong to each other in lifelong marriage.

The future strength of our nation depends on good marriages to yield strong revenues, good health, low crime, high education, and high human capital. As the following enumeration shows, smart parents and smart societies pay attention to the state and strength of marriage.


[1] See Patrick F. Fagan and Nicholas Zill, “The Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection,” (Washington, D.C.: Marriage and Religion Research Institute, 2011). Available at

[2] See Patrick F. Fagan and Nicholas Zill, “The Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection,” (Washington, D.C.: Marriage and Religion Research Institute, 2011). Available at