The Census Bureau, as reported by the New York Times, shows that for the first time most households in the United States do not contain any married couples. I am disappointed, but not surprised by these numbers. Society has done little to support and advocate for marriage. Indeed, most states deny marriage to a portion of their population. However, that is by no means the only factor we need to address in order to build back up the number of married families in the United States.
The New York Times article says that women with only a high school diploma are less likely to marry the fathers of their children than in the past. The Census does not give us reasons for this; however, the Times suggests economic instability as a factor. If that is the case, one way to increase the number of marriages is to provide stable employment for those without college degrees. I encourage our government to do more to strengthen this segment of the job market.
The Times also says that most people in the United States still will be married at some point in their lives. However, people marry later and many do not stay married. The economic stability issue would certainly help here as well, as would a greater emphasis on understanding marital vows both before and during a marriage.
It is possible that some people marry later so that they have more time to understand what it means to be married. That is a good thing. Even so, I think society should also look at the value of getting married before having children or even before sexual relations. The latter may be the hardest part to argue for in today’s society, but it is such a wonderful thing to keep the sexual relationship solely within the bonds of the holy commitment of marriage.
This report from the Times leaves me with more questions than answers. I would love to see more of the actual data, though data will only get us so far. I am curious which states have seen growth in the number of married households. What are the factors that lead toward growth there? I hope the government, business community, churches and other parts of civil society will step up to strengthen married households and promote the meaning and benefits of marriage. Not everyone should get married, but we can do more to build stronger families and thus stronger communities.