Marriage, according to an article by Katie Roiphe that ran today in Slate, is overrated.
“I am not here arguing against marriage,” Roiphe writes, just the “impossible-to-evade shining ideal” that everyone should do it.
Roiphe’s attitude, or general exhaustion with America’s constant focus on the necessity of marriage, seems to corroborate with the country’s trend away from wedded bliss as the lifestyle of choice. According to the most recent data, American marriage rates have reached historic lows, dropping almost 20 percent since the 1960s.
Beliefs surrounding the social ramifications of such a trend aside, some writers and researchers have expressed concern over what this means for American economics.
According to a new report by Gallup, marriage seems to act as a form of economic stimulus, and the lack thereof can be felt in the private sector.
“Married Americans spend more than those in any other marital status category, across age groups,” writes Frank Newport and Joy Wilke, who did the write-up for the study on gallup.com. According to their research, married Americans tend to have an above-average income, which leads to more spending which stimulates the economy.
While the Gallup poll shows domestic partners come close to the spending of marrieds, those who remain unmarried still fall short of those who buckle down and tie the knot. Those who remain single spend the least, “at least in part because they have lower-than-average incomes.”
“I don't think the real takeaway should necessarily be that more cohabitation is the way to get Americans throwing around cash,” The New Republic’s Noreen Malone wrote in response to the poll. Instead, Malone believes a “less scoldy” approach of decreasing housing costs could do just as well to get consumer spending up.
After all, according to Malone, "marriage, for a whole host of messy cultural and socioeconomic reasons, has become a luxury item in America," suggesting marriage is a result of the wealth, and not the other way around.
That last sentence, however, is an assessment that The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson takes issue with.
“If marriage were truly a luxury good, you'd expect marriage rates to be wildly different by education attainment, since education levels strongly predict income,” Thompson wrote this morning on the magazine’s website.
The problem is, as Thompson shows with a cluster of graphs, marriage is strikingly common across all levels of education.
In fact, another writer at The Atlantic, W. Bradford Wilcox (who is also director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia), argues in an article that ran Tuesday on the magazine’s website, that if marriage is treated as luxury for the upper-middle class, there could be negative long-term results. The demographic that benefits the most from marriage, Wilcox argues, is children raised in lower-income homes where the parents didn’t go to college.3 comments on this story
“Among less-educated families, the children of married parents earn about $4,000 more than their peers from non-intact families,” Wilcox writes, eventually concluding that “The intact, two-parent family seems to be particularly important for children hailing from less-privileged homes and a powerful force for economic mobility when it's the family norm at the community level.”
Granted, Katie Roiphe’s article in Slate was focused primarily on destroying the stigmas that weigh heavy in the minds of many women who don’t choose marriage as their happily ever after, but in light of the economic values of marriage, Roiphie’s central question seems to take on a whole new meaning: “What would it mean to end the centuries-long American fixation on traditional family structures?”