TIME Magazine published an interesting article in its March 5, 2012 issue, titled “Just Not the Marrying Kind” by Rich Lowry. In it, Lowry details that today more than half of all births to women under age 30 are out of the wedlock. He suggests that the decline of marriage is our most ignored national crisis, chiefly because single family homes have less social mobility. Lowry notes “illegitimate” births are highest amongst minorities and lower income demographics, while marriage remains strong amongst the white and college educated. He notes that children raised in two parent families have greater outcomes in educational achievement and professional success.
Referring to any child as “illegitimate” is, to my ears, an insult. Being born to two parents who are married does not make you any more “legitimate”, worthy, or valuable than a child born under different circumstances. Aside from Lowry’s onerous term, he makes a valid point that marriage protects children. Single family households have six times the poverty rate than that of married families. Two incomes are better than one. When a family is held together by the bonds of marriage, there seems to be a greater commitment to stick it out, work it through, and sacrifice for one another.
It’s important not to place value judgments on people for where they come from or the choices they make, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. Just as we are out of the days when we referred to babies born out of wedlock as “bastards”, we shouldn’t denigrate the choices people make not to marry. If you’re in a relationship and find yourself pregnant and choose not to get married, usually you have a good reason not to. Sometimes it is the strongest, wisest choice not to rush into marriage too quickly or create a partnership with a person you know is not the right match for you. And certainly the decision to have a child without marrying should not be treated with disdain, but with respect for the strength it takes to make a personal decision that is right for your circumstances.
But that doesn’t change the fact that marriage is important. Lowry writes that many people view marriage as something they can achieve only after they feel solidly in the middle class. (How many times have you heard someone say, “We’ll get married when we have enough money”)? But as Lowry writes, “This gets it backward. Marriage is a means of getting and staying out of poverty rather than an economic capstone.” Regardless of your political or religious stripe, the undeniable fact is that marriage serves as a vehicle for economic and educational achievement. It gives food for thought . . .
Is marriage the best way to protect children? Is the decline of marriage a national crisis? Sound off in the comments below.