The Decline Of Marriage

It seems to me…

Bigamy is having one wife too many.  Monogamy is the same.”  ~ Oscar Wilde.

Last August, a blog I posted supporting traditional marriage (https://lewbornmann.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/in-defense-of-marriage/) received more comments than any other of my postings and resulted in quite a few responses.  I assumed when I posted this blog that there would be a fair amount of disagreement and while I agreed with some of what was said, in several of the comments we probably will have to agree to disagree.  It also was apparent that some of the people that commented had not actually read what I wrote.  While I fully support equal rights, there are some traditions worth preserving.  This posting primarily is a composite of some of those responses.  I’ll repost more of them later.

I probably should preface this posting with a reminder that I remain in favor of traditional marriage though some of my comments might be interpreted otherwise.  That said, the only logical conclusion is that the institution of marriage is undergoing changes that ultimately might make it irrelevant.

Studies show that people believe in monogamy but behave quite differently.  Conservative estimates are that 60 percent of married U.S, men and 40 percent of women will have an extramarital affair.  Based on these percentages, we can conclude that at least one partner will have an affair in approximately 80 percent of all marriages.

Marriage primarily is a legal agreement originally intended to guarantee economic support by a male for dependent family members.  In an agrarian society when the anticipated average life span was only around 30 years, the “till death do us part” stipulation was much more reasonable.  Now that women have essentially achieved economic and social parity, the concept of lifetime monogamy appears to be less successful.  A rapidly increasing percentage of women apparently do not think men are necessary other than as sperm donors and are unwilling expend the effort required to be in a relationship with a man.  Statistically, we have become serially polygamous.

An increasing percentage of people are rejecting marriage as part of their life expectations.  Considering that trend, it is somewhat inconsistent that same-sex marriage acceptability would be such a high priority.  In 1950, only about 9 percent of Americans lived alone; according to the 2011 census, that percentage has increased to about 28 percent[i].

The trend is obvious.  In 2005, married couples became a minority of all American households for the first time[ii].  51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.  Only about 30 percent of AfricanAmerican women are living with a spouse according to the Census Bureau.

The proportion of married people, especially among younger age groups, has been declining for decades.  Between 1950 and 2000, the share of women 15-to-24 who were married plummeted to 16 percent, from 42 percent.  Among 25-to-34-year-olds, the proportion dropped to 58 percent, from 82 percent.

One-parent families have essentially become the new norm.  While we might prefer otherwise, perhaps it would be best to acknowledge that single-parent families are likely to constitute the majority of home environments and determine the best way to provide support for all children regardless of the number of parents with whom they might be living.  This trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways in which the government and employers distribute benefits.

The proportion of out-of-wedlock first births to women 15-19 years old increased from 28 percent in the early 1930s to 89 percent in the early 1990s.  In 1990-1994, about 85 percent of all first births to European-American women ages 15 to 19 either were born or conceived out-of-wedlock, compared with 25 percent for the 1930-1934 period.  Comparable figures for African-American teenage women were 98 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

Out-of-wedlock births are directly related to social class.  Almost 70 percent of births to high school dropouts were out-of-wedlock; 51 percent of births to high school graduates; 34 percent for those with some college; and just 8 percent for those with a college degree.  The poverty rate for single-parent families is six times higher than for married families[iii].

Since out-of-wedlock births adversely impact society, there are several ways this rate could be reduced.  Three-quarters of births outside of marriage are unintended; free state-funded healthcare providing reliable birth control such as the Pill or IUDs, as in Europe, could be beneficial.  Likewise, increasing education and employment levels also positively affect the out-of-wedlock birthrate.

While I accept the probable inevitability of same-sex marriage legalization, I still feel, however, that some societal traditions should be maintained – marriage restriction being one of those.  There wasn’t any attempt to justify that belief on religious teachings, potential societal impact, or similar arguments.  It simply is an emotionally-based belief.

The decline percentage of those choosing to marry and its long-term societal affects is a separate but related question.  Same-sex marriage and decline marriage rates both indicate a change in how we consider marriage as does the rapidly increasing percentage of people turning to online-based dating systems permitting individuals, couples, and groups to make contact and communicate with each other over the Internet, usually with the objective of developing a personal, romantic, or sexual relationship (but that is a topic for future consideration).

That’s what I think, what about you?


[i] Foroohar, Rana.  For Richer or Poorer, Time, 12 March 2012, p23.

[ii]Roberts, Sam.  51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse, U.S., The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/us/16census.html?pagewanted=all

[iii] Lowry, Rich.  Just Not The Marrying Kind, Time, 6 Mar 2012, p13.

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About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in Affair, African-American, Birth, Dating, European-American, Extramarital, Marriage, Monogamy, Online, Out-Of-Wedlock, Polygamy, Polygamy, Same-Sex, Same-Sex, Sex, Traditional and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Decline Of Marriage

  1. My brother suggested I might like this blog. He was totally right. This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

    • lewbornmann says:

      Please thank your brother for his recommendation. While I primarily write my postings for myself, appreciative comments always are encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to write back…

  2. auntyuta says:

    I think a single parent famiy is not an ideal family for a child to grow up in. If more and more children grow up in single parent families it seems to me this is resulting in more and more children being disadvantaged. This is of course a generalisation. Not all children out of single parent families are enormously disadvantaged and children who live with two parents can sometimes be disadvantaged too. I think for society it is important whether children can be raised in loving families with adequate shelter, food, education, social stimulus etc. What adults do while they raise children is important for the children. Once the children become independent adults themselves it is not of the utmost importance to the children anymore whether the parents stay together even though grandparents can play an important part too!

    • lewbornmann says:

      I agree with you. Children from single-parent homes frequently are disadvantaged but trends indicate they will continue to increase; we will have to make social adjustments to better accomodate them in the future. Lower family financial status during childhood affects a child’s health, education, and social achievements throughout their entire life. While I would like to think otherwise, the single-parent family is something we will have to get used to.

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