Marriage and class:
The 2010 census shows (For richer, for smarter ECONOMIST vol. 399, no 8739 June 25, 2011 page 42) that fewer people in the United States are getting married.  It is now 45%, below half for the first time in history.  In 1950 43% of households consisted of a married couple with children.  They are now 20%.  Married couples have a significantly increased level of education and decreased incidence of poverty. 

Divorce rates are down.  Well that’s nice.  They are considerably lower among the more educated.  A college degree goes along with a divorce rate that is a third of that of those with a high school education.

It all seems quite baffling.  When questioned, the unmarried with children say they can’t afford to get married.  I thought it was divorce that was expensive.  A marriage shouldn’t call for more than a five buck trip to a notary public.  There may be some factor, hidden from me, that has to do with relief.  Maybe marriage might reduce the amount of child support a woman gets.  If so, that is obviously iniquitous.  How can we afford to spend money blowing up Arabs when we could use a fraction of it to remove any financial penalty whatsoever from getting married?  Sorry if that sounds a bit cynical, but I am indeed puzzled. 

I think it’s generally agreed that a couple can do a better job of raising children than a single parent can.  If so, we are producing a population that is disproportionately less educated, poorer and less well parented than our resources could produce without spending one more dime.  And the article cited does say that this is a serious matter that has not received proper attention.

Of course there is another number the census folks have right at their fingertips that either they or the magazine have seen fit to withhold.  Of children actually born, what is the percentage that is born to married couples?  If 20 % of households are couples with children and 58% have children but no marriage, and the birth rate among the poor remains higher than among the rich, isn’t that also a problem?

When I was very young, the poorest families in town frequently had two adults earning minimum wage.  The richest had one adult earning ten times minimum wage.  So the rich earned maybe five times what the poor did, and that is before you take into account income tax, which was much simpler than it is now and had a top rate of 90% as I remember, and that at no stratospheric level.  And everybody got married.  At a five to one spread or less, I think you would say we were all middle class, black and white, old and young, more educated or less.  Nowadays middle class, I guess you could call it being married.  And the babies being born into the middle class seem to be very few indeed. 

It will only get worse until we learn.

There have been 17,386 visitors so far.

Home page.