Thursday, July 05, 2007

Why Marriage Matters

For too long, marriage has been considered optional. We see celebrities and average people pop out babies without any sort of commitment at all. And for some people, a minority of them, it works. But for too many young people, they see this as an option and it ends up being an anchor that weighs them down economically and educationally for the rest of their lives. If, as stated by The Smartest Woman in the World, it takes a village to raise a child, then perhaps we should get all of our villages to restate the standards of behavior, such as not getting pregnant when you haven't the will or means to take care of a child. I have kids in my school who see getting pregnant and living on public dole as a viable career path. And I teach in an upper middle class school. Movie stars notwithstanding, most single women who have children without the benefit of a spouse wind up on welfare. They remain poor and their children remain poor. Shouldn't we want more for our kids? And why aren't more people within the community outraged at the media that promoted promiscuity to kids without fully disclosing the possible outcome?

From the Economist magazine) There is a widening gulf between how the best- and least-educated Americans approach marriage and child-rearing. Among the elite (excluding film stars), the nuclear family is holding up quite well. Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock. And the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were. At the bottom of the education scale, the picture is reversed. Among high-school dropouts, the divorce rate rose from 38% for those who first married in 1975-79 to 46% for those who first married in 1990-94. Among those with a high school diploma but no college, it rose from 35% to 38%. And these figures are only part of the story. Many mothers avoid divorce by never marrying in the first place. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%. Does this matter? Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank, says it does. In her book "Marriage and Caste in America", she argues that the "marriage gap" is the chief source of the country's notorious and widening inequality. Middle-class kids growing up with two biological parents are "socialised for success". They do better in school, get better jobs and go on to create intact families of their own. Children of single parents or broken families do worse in school, get worse jobs and go on to have children out of wedlock. This makes it more likely that those born near the top or the bottom will stay where they started. America, argues Ms Hymowitz, is turning into "a nation of separate and unequal families".

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