There are many people who want to or have abandoned the idea of marriage. I’m not speaking in the political realm of who should marry, but the whole concept of whether marriage is necessary for anyone. In a Washington Post web article referring to this topic, the author cites research indicating that 44% of the people born after 1980 believe marriage is becoming obsolete. This may not be surprising since a new analysis of U.S. census data reports that only 51 percent of all adults who are 18 and older are married.
I wonder what would happen if we took all of the time, money, and effort that is spent on fighting the idea of marriage and we spent it on helping people stay married or showing them the benefits of marriage. It’s possible that would have more of a positive effect on our society and economy.
Marriages and families are part of the backbone of our society in many ways including economically. I say “part of” because I’m not discounting single people as contributors too. Statistics, however, show that marital stability in a community is helpful to economic growth.
A report released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute in 2011 revealed alarming statistics related to marriage and the economy. The first measurements indicate that married-couple families generate the most income on average and intact-married families have the greatest net worth. When people get married and combine incomes and assets, it allows them to spend more money throughout their community, which in turn helps boost the economy.
The report also reveals that poverty rates are significantly higher among cohabitating families and single-parent families than among married families. Following a divorce, the parent who ends up with custody experiences a 52% drop in his or her family income. Over one-third of single mothers live in poverty. Cohabiters who live together less than four years are unlikely to pool their incomes. Older cohabiters, who have never married, on average have 78% less net worth and have the lowest net worth growth of all family structures.
Imagine, for a moment, a world where people abandon marriage. There are no legally-binding relationships. Couples would just fall in love and have children, but no one would make a lawful commitment. Everybody would be free to leave their relationship at any time without the hassle of involving an attorney.
Does that paint a picture of economic stability and growth? Probably not. I think there would be a lot of chaos. If cohabitating was the norm, there wouldn’t be a lot of motivation for someone to think seriously before entering a relationship. Without legal consequences, there would be little risk in trying a new relationship every few years or whenever someone gets bored or a little frustrated. Children would lose all sense of security never knowing when a parent might leave. I realize that they may feel a little bit that way today with the divorce rate so high, but 50% of marriages stay intact, so even though there’s no guarantee, there’s a little more reassurance.
Women and children usually suffer the most when marriages break down. I know some people believe that marriage is pushed down their throats because it has a biblical or religious foundation, but it’s good for so many other logical reasons.
If people would take the time to think through the effect that abandoning marriage would have on society in general, they probably wouldn’t be so eager to embrace it.