If the family bond turns children from barbarians into men of civilization. The marriage bond prevents men from turning into a certain kind of burnout. In the first season of HBO’s True Detective, Woody Harrelson’s character, Marty Hart, recalls seeing the flophouse apartment of his partner Rust Cohle. “Past a certain age, a man without a family can be a bad thing,” he says. Cohle ruminates too much on the dark side of life. He drinks too much at the wrong time.
We know from endless studies that men without marriage are less likely to work or return to work, and men without work are less likely to marry. Nicholas Eberstadt has observed that the number of men in their prime age without work is steadily increasing in America. “By 2015, nearly 22 percent of U.S. men between the ages of 20 and 65 were not engaged in paid work of any kind, and the work rate for this grouping was nearly 12.5 percentage points below its 1948 level.”
This is the group of men least likely to marry. And their lack of marriage leads to real atomization. Time-use surveys show that these men don’t join civic groups, act as caregivers to the elderly, or coach Little League baseball. Lacking the first bond of society, they lose all others.