FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 6, 2010
NEW REPORT FINDS
MARRIAGE IN MIDDLE AMERICA IS IN TROUBLE
MARRIAGES OF COLLEGE EDUCATED STRONGER
THAN EVER; BUT UNWED CHILDBEARING, DIVORCE, & POOR MARITAL QUALITY ARE SURGING AMONG AMERICANS WHO HAVE JUST HIGH SCHOOL DEGREE
CHANGING VALUES, UNEMPLOYMENT, &
SECULARIZATION AT ROOT
New York, NY - December 6, 2010, 12:01 a.m.: Drawing on the latest national data, the 2010 issue of The State of Our Unions, "When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America," concludes that in Middle America, marriage is in trouble.
New data indicate that trends in nonmarital childbearing, divorce, and marital quality in Middle America increasingly resemble those of the poor, where marriage is fragile and weak. However, among the highly educated and affluent, marriage is stable and appears to be getting even stronger. "When Marriage Disappears" is the first report to address the causes of the retreat from marriage in Middle America; it finds that shifts in marriage attitudes, increases in unemployment, and declines in religious attendance are among the trends driving the retreat from marriage in Middle America. And in a striking reversal of historic trends, highly educated Americans are moving to embrace a pro-marriage mindset even as Middle Americans are losing faith in marriage. These are the main findings of the new report released today by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.
THIS "MODERATELY EDUCATED" MIDDLE OF AMERICA
CONSTITUTES A FULL 58 PERCENT OF THE ADULT POPULATION.
The report finds:
- The moderately educated middle (high-school-educated Americans who make up 58% of the adult population) is dramatically more likely than highly educated Americans (college educated Americans who make up 30% of the adult population) to have children outside of marriage. In the early 1980s, only 2% of babies born to highly educated mothers were born outside of marriage, compared to 13% of babies born to moderately educated mothers and 33% of babies born to mothers who were the least educated (high school dropouts who make up 12% of the adult population). In the late 2000s, only 6% of babies born to highly educated mothers were born outside of marriage, compared to 44% of babies born to moderately educated mothers and 54% of babies born to the least-educated mothers.
- Divorce rates are up for moderately educated Americans, relative to those who are highly educated. From the 1970s to the 1990s, divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage became less likely for the highly educated (15% down to 11%), somewhat more likely for the moderately educated (36 up to 37%), and less likely for the least educated (46 down to 36%).
- In a historic reversal, the cultural foundations of strong marriages—adherence to a marriage mindset, religious attendance, and faith in marriage as a way of life—are stronger now among the highly educated than among the moderately educated. For instance, teenagers from highly educated homes are more likely to report that they would be embarrassed by a pregnancy (76%) than their peers from moderately educated homes (61%). Highly educated Americans are also now more likely to attend church on a weekly basis (34%) than moderately educated Americans (28%); by contrast, in the 1970s, highly educated Americans were less likely to attend church than the moderately educated.
In an era when jobs and the economy are the overriding concerns, why should the nation care about the marriages of Middle Americans? The author of this year's lead essay, W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia, said, "Marriage plays a central role in securing the American Dream for countless Americans. Adults and children fortunate enough to live in an intact, married family are much more likely to succeed in school and the work place, to acquire a home of their own, and to experience upward mobility. The retreat from marriage in Middle America means that all too many Americans will not be able to realize the American Dream."
"One of the most striking findings in this report is that the cultural and economic foundations of marriage appear to be growing stronger among the educated and the affluent, even as they deteriorate among Middle Americans," noted Wilcox. "Whatever highly educated Americans may think about social issues in general, and they often take a progressive position, when it comes to their own lives, they are increasingly adopting a marriage mindset and acting accordingly."
"The growing marriage gap between highly educated and moderately educated Americans should be of concern to Americans of every stripe," added Wilcox, the Director of the National Marriage Project at U.Va. "The vast majority of American adults aspire to marriage, and children are much more likely to thrive if they are raised in a married home with their own mother and father. Unfortunately, marriage has now fallen out of reach for millions of adults and children in Middle America."
About the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia
The National Marriage Project is a nonpartisan, nonsectarian and interdisciplinary initiative located at the University of Virginia. The project provides research and analysis on the health of marriage in America (including the annual "State of Our Unions" report). The National Marriage Project, which was founded at Rutgers University in 1997 by Drs. David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, moved to U.Va. in the fall of 2009 and is now directed by W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the university.
About the Center for Marriage and Families
at the Institute for American Values
Directed by Elizabeth Marquardt, the mission of the Center for Marriage and Families is to increase the proportion of U.S. children growing up with their two married parents. At the Center's website, FamilyScholars.org, bloggers include emerging voices and senior scholars with distinctive expertise and points of view tackling today's key debates on the family. The Institute for American Values is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to strengthening families and civil society in the U.S. and the world.
The "When Marriage Disappears" issue of The State of Our Unions is part of the "Nest and Nest-egg Initiative," a multi-year inquiry, supported by The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, into the prudential values and institutions that are essential to sustaining a secure and thriving American middle class.
For more information about this report, or to schedule an interview with W. Bradford Wilcox, please contact David Lapp at 212-246-3942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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