Socially and economically, Middle America is falling apart

Social trends are intertwining with economic trends, like increased unemployment and declining wages, in a downward spiral. “High school–educated young men today,” Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University writes, “may be the first generation in memory to earn less than their fathers did.” This economic pressure makes it harder to marry; the lack of marriage, in turn, denies men crucial social stability (married men earn more than single men with the same education and job histories).

All of this points to a slow-motion social and economic evisceration of a swath of Middle America. Wilcox even invokes the possibility of “a 21st century version of a traditional Latin-American model of family life, where only a comparatively small oligarchy enjoys a stable married and family life — and the economic and social fruits that flow from strong marriages.”