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Getting the 60 Percent Married - Renewing marriage in Middle America
National Review Online ^ | January 3, 2013 | An NRO Interview

Posted on 01/03/2013 6:58:49 PM PST by neverdem

About 60 percent of Americans have a high-school diploma but not a degree from a four-year college. Forty-four percent of their children are born outside of marriage. This finding is the focus of “The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent,” the fruit of the annual “State of Our Unions”(PDF) report compiled by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values. W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the project, talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about what’s going on and why it matters.


KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ
: Who are the “forgotten 60 percent”?

W. BRADFORD WILCOX: Almost 60 percent of Americans have a high-school degree but not a college degree. We call this group “Middle Americans,” which includes those with some college or an associate’s degree, and it is this group that is driving the key trends in marriage today. Yet their welfare — when it comes to marriage, work, and education — has received practically no attention from politicians, the media, and other observers of American life, even though they make up a majority of the American adult population. This neglect may change in the wake of the recent presidential election, insofar as Republicans have realized the cost of neglecting the welfare of Middle Americans.


LOPEZ
: Forty-four percent of children in this group are born outside of marriage? Why does this matter?

WILCOX: It matters for two reasons. First, children born outside of marriage are much more likely to be consigned to a life of family instability, poverty, and educational failure. In a word, they are much less likely to have a shot at the American Dream. Second, we’re at a tipping point with Middle America, insofar as Middle Americans are on the verge of losing their connection to marriage. But they haven’t gotten there yet. If the nation takes the right cultural and policy steps, we can renew marriage in Middle America.


LOPEZ
: What does marriage have to do with “social opportunity”?

WILCOX: Children raised in a stable, intact family are much more likely to benefit from the time, attention, and money of two parents. They are more likely to thrive in school, to steer clear of encounters with the police, to avoid having a teenage pregnancy, to graduate from college, and to be gainfully employed as an adult. Note also that married parents of children born to them are more than twice as likely to remain together, compared with cohabiting parents of children born to them. So, even though some children do just fine in cohabiting, single-parent, or step-parent families, children’s odds of making it in America are much higher if they hail from an intact family where the parents are married.

For instance, a recent Pew report(PDF) found that “among children who start in the bottom third of the income distribution, only 26 percent with divorced parents move up to the middle or top third as adults, compared to 50 percent of children with continuously married parents.”

It is worth noting here that Senator Marco Rubio has spoken eloquently of the need to close the growing “opportunity gap” between upper-class Americans and Middle Americans. One of the first things the nation needs to do to close this gap is to increase the percentage of children being raised by their own married parents.


LOPEZ
: Why do you call these people “Middle Americans,” and how can they best be reached? 

WILCOX: We call them Middle Americans because they hail from the middle of the American class distribution and make up a majority of the population. And, until recently, they have served as the moral and civic backbone of America. In the 1970s, for instance, this group was more likely to attend church than any other group in the country. But now, for both economic and cultural reasons, Middle Americans are falling behind. Middle Americans, especially Middle American men, are losing their connection to marriage, work, religion, and civil society. This doesn’t bode well for the fate of our nation, or for our democratic life together.


LOPEZ
: If getting them married successfully is “the social challenge for our times,” why aren’t more of us talking about it, and often?

WILCOX: Because many Americans think that family-related matters such as marriage are “private” and not worthy of public attention, or because they think we should celebrate today’s family diversity. 


LOPEZ
: What does this have to do with the fiscal cliff or the economy? 

WILCOX: The breakdown of marriage forces the state to pay more for welfare, education, policing, and incarceration, insofar as children and young adults raised outside of intact, married families are more likely to depend on public services or to engage in criminal behavior, compared to with their peers who grew up in intact, married families. As our report points out, family breakdown costs the taxpayers billions every year. So one reason we’re engaged in deficit spending is that Uncle Sam is having to step into the breach created by families that have been affected by divorce orby the failure of families to form in the first place.

LOPEZ: What is the marriage penalty, and what kind of difference could it make if it were lifted?

WILCOX: Robert Lerman at the Urban Institute estimates that many low-income families face a marriage penalty of up to 25 percent. This is because many of our public welfare programs — e.g., food stamps — are cut off for low-income families whose income rises above a certain threshold. And marriage often means a second earner enters the picture, thus disqualifying many low-income couples from means-tested programs. This means that some couples or single mothers have an economic incentive not to get married. In the report, we detail steps that could be taken to end this penalty. This would shore up the economic foundations of marriage among the poor and send the right signal about marriage to low-income communities where marriage is increasingly rare.


LOPEZ
: Why are tax credits important for families with children?

WILCOX: Raising children is expensive, and well-formed children are a public good. They are the future taxpayers and citizens of the United States. This fact, and the fact that the economic foundations of working-class family life have been eroding since the 1970s, suggests that the nation should do more to shore up the economic foundations of family life in poor and working-class communities. I support tripling the child tax credit to $3,000 per child (and making this amount fully refundable) as one way to help families who are struggling to get by.


LOPEZ
: What does the president have to do with this? What could he do about it?

WILCOX: In my view, the biggest thing that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama could do is to get behind a public campaign to promote married parenthood, much like the campaign the First Lady has conducted on behalf of healthy eating. The Obamas have gone the distance in their marriage, and they could encourage more of their fellow citizens to follow in their footsteps for the sake of kids across this great country of ours. The president could also support efforts to make federal welfare and tax policy more marriage-friendly.


LOPEZ
: How can we talk about marriage and divorce without making people feel bad about a marriage that did not work out? 

WILCOX: We have to think about the future. Almost no one hopes that their children will face a future that includes divorce, single parenthood, or some other family difficulty. So, even though many of us adults have made mistakes or failed in marriage, I think we want the best for our children when it comes to their future family. We need to renew a marriage-friendly culture that manages to hold up the ideal of the intact, married family while treating departures from that ideal with grace and sensitivity. Our children deserve no less.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: marriage

1 posted on 01/03/2013 6:58:55 PM PST by neverdem
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To: neverdem

In today’s legal environment, a wariness of marriage is only sane risk management.

P. S., I’m long term happily married, myself. But, I know many who tried but didn’t manage that.


2 posted on 01/03/2013 7:04:21 PM PST by Pearls Before Swine
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To: neverdem
A huge part of the problem in this country is that billions of dollars are taken from potential productive use and put into things like figuring out how govt should mess with marriage.

I bet every name mentioned in this story makes mid-six figures.

3 posted on 01/03/2013 7:23:30 PM PST by Trailerpark Badass (So?)
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To: neverdem

“Almost 60 percent of Americans have a high-school degree but not a college degree.”

Wait a minute. So he’s saying that 40% of Americans have a college degree? So, to allow for dropouts, 50% or so of the high school kids graduating this year are going to college?

We’d have to have half as many colleges as we do high schools?

Something sounds wrong with that number.


4 posted on 01/03/2013 7:45:46 PM PST by I cannot think of a name
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To: neverdem

I just found a site that takes you to census results and it says that 30% have a degree. That’s more believable, but even it seems a little high.


5 posted on 01/03/2013 7:50:02 PM PST by I cannot think of a name
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To: Pearls Before Swine

Especially for males. I’m in the same situation as you, but have seen here and in other forums what decades of radical feminism have done to the family court system, and what that does to divorced males, who are treated extremely poorly by that system.


6 posted on 01/03/2013 7:53:09 PM PST by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)
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To: neverdem
Why would anyone want to marry a woman when they can stay single and live with her and she can collect all those benefits from the hard working taxpayers of America.

Democrat policy promotes the broken family. We don't penalize sperm donor dads and we give housing and food benefits to unwed mothers.

7 posted on 01/03/2013 8:13:45 PM PST by Newbomb Turk (Hey Newbomb, where's your brothers ElCamino ?)
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To: neverdem
The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of free food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, The National Parks Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals.

Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.

This ends todays lesson.

8 posted on 01/03/2013 8:20:54 PM PST by Newbomb Turk (Hey Newbomb, where's your brothers ElCamino ?)
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To: Newbomb Turk

I know way too many guys who believe in this. It breaks my heart as someone who wants to get married one day and have kids.


9 posted on 01/03/2013 8:42:54 PM PST by Txngal
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To: neverdem

They could start with Honey Boo Boo’s parents...but then again, she might lose her benefits from the other three illegitimate kids she’s had with three other men, not to mention her grandchild. TLC’s hit show has been a real eye-opener for me about the real America, and I fear it is too late to bring back the desirability of marriage, church-affiliation, and the “shame” of being on the dole.


10 posted on 01/03/2013 8:54:13 PM PST by MHT
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To: Txngal

Strong, stable families tend to inculcate the kind of behaviours that preclude the need for an ubiquitous Nanny State; thus, the family is an enemy of the statist thugocracy.


11 posted on 01/03/2013 8:57:39 PM PST by Army Air Corps (Four Fried Chickens and a Coke)
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To: Txngal

Tell me about it. My daughter is a single mom, an intelligent, beautiful, wonderful girl, who made the mistake of trusting a poster boy for the modern disfunctional male. It was hard enough to absorb the shock of the shattered dreams of fairy tales and princesses, but we thought at least that afterward there would be some good guy come along, with a big heart and the cleverness to see what a good life partner she would make. And we are still waiting. Where are all the decent young men that would have swarmed around her in my generation?

Sometimes I think its just Illinois. Do you thnk it would be any better in Texas? North Dakota? Guam? We do sometimes think of moving for the kids’ sake. But ultimately we are confident God can help us wherever we are. But the waiting is hard.


12 posted on 01/03/2013 9:57:45 PM PST by Springfield Reformer (Winston Churchill: No Peace Till Victory!)
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To: Springfield Reformer

Sadly, the kids today, especially the guys, don’t want to get married and have a family...too much work. Even the girls only want t.heir I Phones and other techie stuff. I don’t even know any teenagers that DATE!!!! It’s NOT a good sign for our country.


13 posted on 01/04/2013 2:18:06 AM PST by Ann Archy (ABORTION........the HUMAN sacrifice to the god of CONVENIENCE.)
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To: Springfield Reformer

Sadly, the kids today, especially the guys, don’t want to get married and have a family...too much work. Even the girls only want t.heir I Phones and other techie stuff. I don’t even know any teenagers that DATE!!!! It’s NOT a good sign for our country.


14 posted on 01/04/2013 2:18:06 AM PST by Ann Archy (ABORTION........the HUMAN sacrifice to the god of CONVENIENCE.)
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To: Txngal

i am one of the guys that believes in this! too darn risky to get married look at what the courts have done! i am sure you are a good person but too many women out there are not


15 posted on 01/04/2013 2:31:08 AM PST by kevman (happily intolerant of things i will not tolerate!)
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To: Ann Archy

I have been married for 25 years, I have some young guys that work for me-—a few in the northeast and a few at an office in the south. On Monday mornings I hear them discuss their weekends.....

I hate to say it, but if 50% of what they say is true, then young women sure have changed over the years. It would appear to me that in the northeast the women are beyond easy and the men are happy to go along with it.

Interstingly, I have an office in the south as well, and I do not hear that from the guys in the office as much as I do in the north east. I assume that is in large part a result of the upbringing of the women-—and father’s like me who have guns.


16 posted on 01/04/2013 2:33:38 AM PST by pkmaine
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To: Springfield Reformer

Sounds like your daughter needs to find herself a good old country boy.


17 posted on 01/04/2013 3:39:44 AM PST by Big Giant Head
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To: Springfield Reformer

“Where are all the decent young men that would have swarmed around her in my generation?”

Keep in mind that you did ask.

For millions of us guys, we see a country where women basically own men, if they choose, when it comes to marriage, and we don’t like it. We’ve seen our friends get burned, everyone of us, and we take the steps needed to minimize the chance of us getting burned. In some case, we simply refuse to marry, or not have kids (to the extent we can), knowing that our ‘women’ will stay with us anyway, out of their own insecurity and because they always think they can change us.

In other cases, we marry immigrants or foreigners, where the value system has not been trashed like it has here. That was my answer (and, obviously, the same for millions of others). For example my wife has a boatload of sisters, all married, none ever divorced, for decades now. The first one to jump ship is the outcast. In the American system, that doesn’t happen - the first thing a woman hears from her friends and family if she has a little spat with hubby is “hire a lawyer and clean him out”.

Obviously I’m generalizing, but my point is that your daughter pays the price of American feminism. I tell my kids, at least the boys, to never marry an American-born girl - it’s just too risky, especially given our educational system and our colleges. The divorce rate for men married to immigrants is less than half of that for men married to Americans (I think a lot less), so it’s simply a probability game now. Why risk a crappy adulthood, when there are such easy steps to avoid it?


18 posted on 01/04/2013 4:15:16 AM PST by BobL
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To: BobL

That’s pretty depressing Bob. I have a teenage daughter who will attend college next year. She doesn’t share the “clean a guy out” point of view. But I’m sure a few of her friends do.

Because she’s a “brick house” my worry is some knucklehead will come along and treat her like dirt!


19 posted on 01/04/2013 4:46:10 AM PST by poobear (Socialism in the minds of the elites is a con-game for the serfs, nothing more.)
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To: I cannot think of a name
“Almost 60 percent of Americans have a high-school degree but not a college degree.”

So he’s saying that 40% of Americans have a college degree?

No, that is not what he is saying. He is saying that of Americans who have a high school "degree", fewer than half (over 40%) have also graduated from college, and more than half ("almost 60%") have not graduated from college.

This statistic does not address the percentage of Americans who do not have a high school "degree." I assume they're using the term "high school degree" here to include both people who have graduated from high school with a diploma and those who have earned a GED or equivalent credential.

20 posted on 01/04/2013 5:18:08 AM PST by Tax-chick (Mostly just confused.)
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To: neverdem

“If the nation takes the right cultural and policy steps, we can renew marriage in Middle America.”

That’s code for big government. No thanks. Sell that drek someplace else.


21 posted on 01/04/2013 5:21:18 AM PST by KantianBurke (Where was the Tea Party when Dubya was spending like a drunken sailor?)
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To: poobear

“That’s pretty depressing Bob. I have a teenage daughter who will attend college next year. She doesn’t share the “clean a guy out” point of view. But I’m sure a few of her friends do.
Because she’s a “brick house” my worry is some knucklehead will come along and treat her like dirt!”

I feel for you. My advise would be for her to demand a high price from a guy before she gets serious. If he wants to live with her - fine, give her a ring and a (public) wedding date, and then only live together if it’s the only practical option (i.e., long-distance relationship otherwise) - otherwise just get married sooner. Lots of guys will take a pass, but there are still a few that will play ball. The key is to not waste her 20s with a guy who’s more than happy to live with her, but has no desire to go further - because when she hits her 30s, things will get bad (i.e., all the decent guys gone and she won’t be as much of catch then).

By the way, thanks for understanding where I was coming from - some people on this site are convinced that I just say what I say out of hatred towards women - far from it or I’d still be single (and unhappy), but it is due to hatred of feminism.


22 posted on 01/04/2013 8:37:06 PM PST by BobL
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To: BobL

Bob I understand all too well. As a woman growing up in the 80’s I didn’t want to get married or have children because the men were such freaks and all my friends who were married were miserable. Most were divorced like you described. Suddenly in my mid thirties I “fell in love” with this man I’ll be married to for 22 years next month. Our daughter was a “surprise”.

BTW, ain’t gonna be no living together with our Southern daughter. I’ll see to that as long as I’m alive. ;D! The boyz that come around here see a baseball bat and a machete at our front door. They “get the message”! No worries with your opinions. Everyone is entitled you know? For good reason most of the time. poobear


23 posted on 01/04/2013 11:11:51 PM PST by poobear (Socialism in the minds of the elites is a con-game for the serfs, nothing more.)
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To: poobear

Wow, you did luck out. Obviously I’m generalizing. In fact my own (immigrant, though) wife was over 30 when we first met. Anyway, congrats, and best of luck.


24 posted on 01/05/2013 6:16:26 AM PST by BobL
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