Married Americans Are Thriving

Feb 22, 2024

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Sociologist Brad Wilcox joined “Washington Watch” in February to discuss how, despite a negative cultural narrative, married Americans are thriving.

“[W]e’ve actually seen divorce come down since 1980,” Wilcox told the show. “A lot of people think that one in two marriages will end in divorce. But the reality actually is that most marriages today go the distance. And that’s the good news, because our kids are more likely to flourish when they’re raised by their own married parents. We’ve actually seen an uptick in the share of kids who are being raised by their own married parents.” (LEARN MORE: Good News: Two-Parent Families Are On The Rise!)

The marriage rate in the U.S. has dropped by almost 60% in the last 50 years, according to the Washington Stand. While the drop in marriages has many causes, it also goes hand-in-hand with a downward trend in American happiness.

‘Bare Branches’

““[B]ecause fewer and fewer Americans are getting married and having kids, more and more adults are what I call ‘bare branches.’ It’s a term from China that refers to adults without kin, without a spouse, and without children. It’s a closing of the American heart that we’re seeing unfold that’s marked by less dating, less marriage, and less childbearing as well,” Wilcox continued. (LEARN MORE: Biden-Harris Campaign Spends $25 Million On Pro-Abortion Ads)

“One is that in the new economy, a lot of men who are not college educated are not thriving, and so they’re not as marriageable,” he explained. “A second issue is that we’re seeing a more secular country. And because religious Americans tend to be more marriage oriented … that’s a big factor as well. We also have what [I] call the ‘Midas mindset’ playing out where too many Americans are assuming that the key to a good life is education, it’s money, it’s work above all things, and that marriage and family are not as important. … [This] can lead people to de-emphasize … the importance of finding a spouse, of getting married, staying married and having kids.”

Elites Get Married, Stay Married

“[T]he elites actually are tending to get married and stay married in higher numbers than most Americans,” Wilcox furthered. “… [T]hey’re not using their bully pulpits to preach the value of marriage [or using] their positions to advance the value of marriage. … I talk about Reed Hastings [of] Netflix in the book as one example of a guy who talks [leftist] oftentimes, and his network often promotes more of a progressive view on family issues, [such as] the ‘Marriage Story’ movie — a negative view about marriage, and yet in his own personal life, has managed to forge a strong and stable marriage for him and his wife and their two kids for more than 30 years. … We’ve got to resist a lot of the more ‘me first’ messaging we get oftentimes from a more elite culture.”

What Is The Solution?

“Our culture tends to minimize sacrifice and suffering, and our culture also has oftentimes a more short-term mindset. And of course, being a good spouse requires sacrifice, requires compromise, it requires suffering, and it requires having more of a long-term perspective when it comes to how you organize your life. [P]eople can do that well [by putting] their spouse and their kids first in important ways [and] living for the other. … [W]e just have to continue to try to find creative ways to [help] young adults … realize [that] living for one dopamine hit after another [and] taking for granted a lot of the anti-marriage messages that the pop culture elite culture sends their way is not the way to do it,” Wilcox concluded, noting that church-based educational programs and other activities centered on promoting happy marriages is key.

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