It is true that marriage is on the decline. With the divorce rate approaching the 60% mark and married couples having less than two children, it is pretty clear that The Economist’s title “The Fraying Knot” rings true. However, The Economist, which is skeptical of all things traditional, goes on to present robust evidence that the institution of marriage creates stable family structure.
Even Democrats like Bill Clinton and Daniel Patrick Moynahan (Democrat Senator from NY) have pushed for programs that promote marriage. In 1965, Moynahan proposed emergency federal intervention in the establishment of a stable Negro family structure; he justified the intervention by the high out-of-wedlock birthrate among blacks. The 1996 Welfare Reform Act that Bill Clinton signed into law called marriage “an essential institution of a successful society which promotes the interests of children.
One type of program that The Economist (January 12th through 18th issue, p. 27-28) seems to laud for its results is that of the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI) which helps couples recognize the benefits to marriage. OMI, started in 1999, has served 315,000 people and is the largest and longest running initiative of its kind.
Many churches sponsor initiatives like OMI but are unable to reach their target audience because they don’t attend church. OMI is able to reach beyond the church-going population into those demographic clusters that most need its help. More cities and communities need these type of initiatives to dig deep into the community. As The Economist recognizes:
you don’t see the same pattern of long unmarried relationships you see in Scandinavia, France or Britain…in the United States, marriage is how we do stable families (Andrew Cherlin, sociologist at Johns Hopkins University).
In closing, here is some food for thought… if marriage creates stable families in America, does it also follow that a stable family structure throughout America’s past helped make the U.S. the wealthiest country in the world? And, would it also follow that because marriage is on the decline today, the U.S. is approaching federal budget insolvency ? Get married and stay married–it works.