Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

Is Marriage Over? For Whom?

(Scooped! Just as I was preparing this post, the N.Y. Times printed a detailed story on the same topic titled, in its print version, “Marriage is Valued, but in Decline. Economics and Culture May be Culprits.”)

Marriage is over. That was the comment–roughly in those terms–that I heard tossed out at a panel discussion among many eminent sociologists. No one demurred; a few concurred. Is it really over? Much of the public, 39 percent according to a 2010 Pew survey, agrees that marriage is “becoming obsolete.” And yet, I will argue, the facts are more complex and the prospects for marriage brighter than that capsule comment suggests.

This post presents a bunch of data that allow us to look at marrying and to look at Americans’ feelings about marrying since about 1970. (For an earlier discussion of the topic, see this post from 2012.)

(more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Family Wages

In 1800, most American families were strictly patriarchal. Men deployed the women, youth, children, and, in some instances, the apprentices, servants, and slaves of the household on behalf of the family business. They virtually owned those lives. “Over the past two centuries,” however, “this patriarchal family system collapsed, as household heads lost control over their sons, wives, and servants.”

So writes the eminent historical demographer Steven Ruggles in his 2015 presidential address to the Population Association of America. (Presidential addresses provide opportunities for academics to think big.) He describes this change and then explains it as largely the result of fluctuations in young men’s wages over the past two centuries. Ruggles goes on to claim that in the twenty-first century the American family is not just changing but is unraveling, again as a result of what has happened to young men’s wages.

Ruggles’ is not the only explanation for the collapse of the patriarchal system (see below), but it is well-documented from the massive volumes of census data that he has archived as head of the Minnesota Population Center.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

One clear social change of the last half-century is Americans’ increasing support of sexual freedom. It is all around us: magazines at the check-out counter blaring advice about orgasms, easy-access pornography on the web and soft-core pornography on cable, hooking-up culture on tv programs, and nonchalance about couples “living together” before (or after) marriage (see this earlier post).

Sexual restraints loosened over much of the twentieth century, but the great release, so to speak, occurred in the late 1960s. As I noted in a post three years ago, the hinge of change seemed to between the time that Diana Ross and the Supremes’ hit song “Love Child” made the charts in 1968 – “My father left, he never even married mom / I shared the guilt my mama knew / So afraid that others knew I had no name” – and 1975, when First Lady Betty Ford described the possibilities of her daughter having a premarital affair as “perfectly normal.”

The rise in the proportion of Americans who had such “normal” premarital affairs slowed down in the 1980s. Similarly, the public’s growing acceptance of premarital sex slowed down. [1] Still, Americans’ approval of sexual liberation across a variety of fronts continued even after the late ‘60s hinge. For many observers, it just shows how hedonistic and morally unstrung our society has become. But there is an interesting pattern to changing public views on sex that suggests a more complex story.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Marriage is ancient and universal. But even in the short history of the United States, who, when, where, how and why we marry has varied significantly. For instance, Americans began marrying across racial lines at noteworthy rates in just the last couple of generations. Also, the typical age at which Americans  marry has fluctuated up and down and up in the last century and a half. Even where people married – at home, in churches, or in public spaces – has varied. On the other hand, the desire to marry and the expectation that we will marry has not changed that much. (Previous posts on these points are here, here, here, and here.)

c. 1910 (source)

How we find whom to marry has also changed substantially in recent generations. Now, in the last decade or two, we have entered yet another, new era of meeting and mating: the Era of Internet Courtship. Although many people have asserted that coupling up via the Internet was the “new thing,” only now do we have a solid study that really shows us what is happening, how the Internet is becoming the new site of meeting and mating.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Gay Vows

Much of the to-do about President Obama’s coming out on gay marriage has focused on (besides the political strategy involved) what it tells us about Americans’ tolerance for homosexuality.

patheos via csueastbay/news

Noteworthy as well is what the to-do tells about Americans’ – gay and straight Americans’ – attitudes towards marriage. In same week that the French nonchalantly elected a president who has twice had an unmarried “partner” rather than a wife – the first time with no fewer than four children  –  Americans’ arguments about the President’s statement reaffirmed how much we care about marriage.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

The Pew Research Center recently reported news about marriage from the U.S. Census Bureau: In 2010 just 51% of all American adults were married, compared to 72% in 1960, and Americans who did marry tied the knot later in life. In reality, the situation is not as radically new as it seems. 1950 through 1960 was the most marrying (and parenting) decade in generations – in perhaps all — of American history (see herehere,  and Ch. 4 of here). Marrying rates and ages around the turn of the 21st century are more like those a century ago; both periods differ greatly from the middle of the 20th century.

(Daily Mail)

Still, Americans are breaking new paths to marriage in the 21st century. Not only are today’s couples wedding later – the average bride is about 26 years old and the average groom is about 29, compared to 20 and 23 years old around 1960 – but the culture has shifted greatly. The 1950s were special. Couples married at probably the youngest age in American history; middle Americans got “pinned” in high school (those too young to get the reference, see here) and married almost immediately afterwards; for most, marriage marked their first time living away from their parents; and many were sexually naive. These days, the typical couple marries a decade after high school and – importantly – after having lived together for a while.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Living Togetherness

People of a certain age (like me) can recall a time when the phrases “living together in sin” or “shacking up” were spoken in an embarrassed whisper. One did not discuss such things in front of the children or in polite company. When movie stars were revealed to have done it, newspapers printed scandalized headlines. Nowadays, “living together” is not only an everyday phrase, it is a stage most Americans under 60 have gone through before marriage and, sometimes, after a marriage ends.

source: ourcathlolicmarriage

This change is another startling social revolution that has become banally “normal” in America (like mothers working; see this post). It is, of course, connected to a related social revolution: the general acceptance of premarital sex between adults. A third related change, the increase in children born out of wedlock and living without their fathers, is a different matter – it has not become banally normal and has had some difficult consequences. But, living together or cohabiting, once a hushed secret, is now, in many parts of America, an expected part of adulthood. What happened?

(more…)

Read Full Post »