LOPEZ: Is marriage in America healthy? What’s the greatest challenge to marriage in America at the moment?
WILCOX: Marriage is under stress. Marriage rates are falling, cohabitation is up, nonmarital childbearing is up, and more children are being exposed to a revolving carousel of relationships. This is the message of the recent National Marriage Project report, When Marriage Disappears (PDF).
The two biggest challenges facing marriage are economic and cultural. Economically, working-class and poor men are having difficulty finding stable, decent-paying work. This makes it difficult for them to get and stay married.
Culturally, our society is growing increasingly tolerant of cohabitation and nonmarital childbearing. Among other things, this means that more children are being born into or exposed to cohabiting relationships. In fact, the latest statistics indicate that more than 40 percent of children will spend some time in a cohabiting household before they turn 18. Unfortunately, social science also tells us that cohabitation and children don’t mix. For instance, children in cohabiting households are markedly more likely to be physically abused than children in intact, married unions.
So, if we care about our children, the United States has to shore up the economic and cultural foundations of marriage.