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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Married are a Minority - NYT


The New York Times article titled "To Be Married Means to Be Outnumbered" is as one could expect. conveying a conclusion that is not an accurate assessment of the information. The opening gives the raw percentages and does make a concession to the popularity of marriage but then follows up with an expert that paints a cartoonish picture of the results.

The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation's 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.

The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.

"It just changes the social weight of marriage in the economy, in the work force, in sales of homes and rentals, and who manufacturers advertise to," said Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. "It certainly challenges the way we set up our work policies."

While the number of single young adults and elderly widows are both growing, Professor Coontz said, "we have an anachronistic view as to what extent you can use marriage to organize the distribution and redistribution of benefits."
What Professor Coontz says is only true if significant numbers of people are choosing to live together as unmarried couples or as same sex partners. The numbers do not support this. To say "we have an anachronistic view" is only projecting her personal view of marriage into a conclusion not supported by the numbers.

Look at these numbers and realize that marriage is still the choice of a vast majority.
The census survey estimated that 5.2 million couples, a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners. An additional 413,000 households were male couples, and 363,000 were female couples. In all, nearly one in 10 couples were unmarried. (One in 20 households consisted of people living alone).

And the numbers of unmarried couples are growing. Since 2000, those identifying themselves as unmarried opposite-sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent.

You may notice that the percentages of unmarried couples living together is only five percent, not a significant enough amount to justify "an anachronistic view". Curiously the article does not give the percentages of gay and lesbian couples but just the raw number. Pulling out my pocket calculator from my pocket protector I see that they make up 0.7% of households. The remainder of unmarried people are single, widowed or divorced. Of these three groups there are a significant number who are expecting to enter into a marriage in the future. To conclude as Professor Coontz has that we have "an anachronistic view" of marriage is just plain ignoring the evidence. Not so the conclusions of Pamela J. Smock, a researcher at the University of Michigan Population Studies Center and Steve Watters, the director of young adults for Focus on the Family. They have accurately seen the numbers for what they say.
Pamela J. Smock... said her research — unaffiliated with the Census Bureau — found that the desire for strong family bonds, and especially marriage, was constant.

"Even cohabiting young adults tell us that they are doing so because it would be unwise to marry without first living together in a society marked by high levels of divorce,"

Steve Watters... said that the trend of fewer married couples was more a reflection of delaying marriage than rejection of it.

But then we get the opinion of the fellow doing the analysis for the NYT. A PC view that puts words in the mouth of the numbers they are not saying.
"It's partially fueled by women in the work force; they don't necessarily have to marry to be economically secure," said Andrew A. Beveridge, a demographer at Queens College of the City University of New York, who conducted the census analysis for The New York Times. "You used to get married to have sex. Now one of the major reasons to get married is to have children, and the attractiveness of having children has declined for many people because of the cost."

Finally the article concludes with a demographer from the liberal Brookings Institution declaring the end of marriage also without support from the numbers.
"It's the legacy of the boomers that have finally caused this tipping point," Dr. Frey said. "Certainly later generations have followed in boomer footsteps, with high levels of living together before marriage, and more flexible lifestyles. But the boomers were the trailblazers, once again, rebelling against a norm their parents epitomized.

"This would seem to close the book on the Ozzie and Harriet era that characterized much of the last century," he said.
Yes the numbers have increased in people who choose to live together or to live as homosexual couples, but they are still too insignificant to declair an abandoning of the institution of marrage. It remains an attractive way of life for the vast majority of people in the US.

As much as the traditional family is held in disdain by the left, everyone else still wishes to strive for the Ozzie and Harriet model, even those who don't know who Ozzie and Harriet are.




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2 Comments:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, even if it were statistically true that married folks were a minority, would that make the unmarried thing right? Sin has always been popular...doesn't make it right.

Nobody wants to hear it but, hey, adultery is still adultery, fornication is still fornication, and illegitimacy is still illegitmacy, no matter how fashionable it's become.

Doug in Colorado

7:02 PM  
Blogger qwadro said...

Hey, even if it were statistically true that married folks were a minority, would that make the unmarried thing right? Sin has always been popular...doesn't make it right.

Nobody wants to hear it but, hey, adultery is still adultery, fornication is still fornication, and illegitimacy is still illegitmacy, no matter how fashionable it's become.
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9:45 PM  

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