The Latest Marriage Dust-Up

"Within the next few years, the American male will hit the highest median age for marriage in the history of the country," laments Ben Domenech:

American men today delay the act of reproduction and union because they devalue it. Because technology and culture (today, technology is culture) unite to encourage them to devalue it — to favor distraction over maturity, personal growth over familial growth, and self over society. … In any case, we have now reached a point where parenthood, something that has been an expected and lauded part of the American life, is now viewed as inessential or even unfortunate.

This is tiresome. Americans are delaying marriage and parenthood not because we devalue those institutions, but because we deeply value them. This is as true for poor, inner city teenagers as it is for elite college graduates. In Promises I Can Keep, sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas demonstrate that many poor, single moms choose to delay marriage because the immature, jobless, sometimes abusive men in their lives simply would not be good husbands or stable fathers. These young women are fairly socially conservative; they aspire to marriage, value parenthood, and are often anti-abortion. They won't settle for relationships that devalue these beliefs.

And I think Conor Friedersdorf has the right take on how affluent 20-somethings think about marriage and parenthood:

Young people in the middle and upper classes in America delay marriage partly out of a desire to avoid the rampant divorces that plagued their parents' generation. The conventional wisdom that some folks "just married too young" leads to years-long relationships wherein the participants are cautiously "making sure" that they are "ready to get married." They may be right to do so!

Reproducing is even more fraught. Young people raised by relatively prosperous Baby Boomers know that if they reproduce in their early twenties, it is possible — even likely — that they'll be unable to afford their children all the same advantages they remember.

The risk of divorce falls for couples who marry later in the life. It falls for couples who are college-educated. And healthier marriages are better for children — socially, academically, and economically. Public policy should be encouraging later marriages and somewhat later childbearing. It's elementary.

cross-posted at TAPPED

One thought on “The Latest Marriage Dust-Up

  1. Dina Eisenberg

    Delaying milestone events like marriage and reproduction until one can ‘get it right’ seems sad and unwise. That attitude presumes that there is a right way to be married, raise kids or protect their future. There isn’t. Those who cautiously wait run the risk of depriving themselves of the joys (and pains) of life. As John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens while your busy making other plans.’


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