Marriage & the growing class divide in America

On Saturday, The New York Times published a lengthy essay on the differences between the lives of those who get married before having children and those who don’t. It also focused on a marital trend that is steadily becoming reality in the U.S.: the emergence of a divided society, separated along the lines of marriage and education. While college-educated Americans continue the traditional path of first comes marriage followed by the baby, among low-income communities and spreading into “middle America” communities is the norm of unwed births with its myriad of ills.

One angle the article didn’t touch much on was how personal decisions impact the chances of being a single parent. One Times blogger did, however:

Many of us (myself included) don’t miss the days of moral judgments that coincided with a time when fewer children were being raised in single-parent households, but if children raised in unintentional out-of-wedlock households continue to struggle in comparison with children in two-parent homes, we need to find a way to replace the force of those social norms without going backward in social acceptance. Can we distinguish between promoting some kind of “parent preparedness” and condemning its lack?

One of the most striking moments of “Two Classes, Separated by ‘I Do’” comes as Ms. Schairer refuses to complain. “I’m in this position because of decisions I made,” she says. Her willingness to accept where those choices have led is admirable, but it’s the impact of those choices on her three children that we must address. No one benefits from their struggles, and if they fail to succeed at becoming self-supporting adults, we will all pay for that failure, although none so much as the children themselves.

The author’s point is pretty good – constructive criticism and encouragement for the future are often more beneficial than outright condemnation. Of course, I am guessing this particular Times contributor is overstating the “moral judgments” made fifty and more years ago, and I have to ask if she really believes moral judgments are worse than the disaster out-of-wedlock marriage has been on America’s culture.

Abstinence is a major part of the solution here. Despite contraception use by the vast majority of Americans, as well as 1.2 million abortions annually, 41% of births are outside of marriage, and 53% of births to women under 30 are out of wedlock. While both contraception and abortion are immoral, they are usually symptoms of the overall problem of a lack of abstinence until marriage. Which is why Mount St. Mary’s University graduate student Erica Szalkowski and I co-authored a piece this morning offering one possible solution: increased chastity by women in order to help men, who are often weaker when it comes to resisting sexual temptation, rise to the proverbial occasion to “help men reform themselves and become the moral authorities they need to be.”

Erica also published a piece at Daily Caller yesterday in which she laid out the case against pornography, and pointed out the harm it has on relationships, on norms related to thinking about sex and relationships, etc. With prevalence via magazines, the Internet, hotels, and DVD and video rental stores, could a cultural (not legal) stand against pornography help prevent such a high rate of single parenting and corresponding poverty and struggling childhood?

The societal consequences of single parenting are well-known. Even liberals admit their feminist and “free sex, no consequence” viewpoints have failed parents and children alike in areas like education, drugs, employment and poverty. Rather than return to practices that greatly improve marital success, however – such as Catholic teachings related to abstinence and Natural Family Planning, as well as other traditions that encourage personal and familial responsibility – they’d rather foist the financial consequences of out-of-wedlock births and “free” sex on the rest of us via certain welfare programs and the HHS contraception/abortifacient/sterilization mandate. Given what the Times discussed, however, perhaps a focus on improving our education system and lowering the cost of college attendance would be a better use of public dollars than using tax dollars to violate the First Amendment and ineffectively subsidize college loans?


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David Strom 12:31 PM on November 28, 2022