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The State of Marriage

In Middle America, marriage is in trouble! So say W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and Elizabeth Marquardt of the Center for Marriage and Families Institute for American Values in New York City.

Their just released report entitled, When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America (The State of Our Unions, Marriage in America 2010) is cause for concern when it comes to the future of marriage in America.

These are the five major conclusions they draw from their study of thousands of folks:

1. Marriage is an emerging dividing line between America’s moderately educated middle and those with college degrees.

2. Marital quality is declining for the moderately educated middle but not for their highly educated peers.

3. Divorce rates are up for moderately educated Americans, relative to those who are highly educated.

4. The moderately educated middle is dramatically more likely than highly educated Americans to have children outside of marriage.

5. The children of highly educated parents are now more likely than in the recent past to be living with their mother and father, while children with moderately educated parents are far less likely to be living with their mother and father.

The most stunning summary statement of their report reads as follows:

“So the United States is increasingly a separate and unequal nation when it comes to the institution of marriage. Marriage is in danger of becoming a luxury good attainable only to those with the material and cultural means to grab hold of it. The marginalization of marriage in Middle America is especially worrisome, because this institution has long served the American experiment in democracy as an engine of the American Dream, a seedbed of virtue for children, and one of the few sources of social solidarity in a nation that otherwise prizes individual liberty.”

It probably goes without saying – to marriage researchers like us who for the past three decades have studied successful marriages around the world, including 45 countries on six continents, the results of this comprehensive study give us much pause for concern. Here’s why.

Just imagine – the most fundamental and central component of American society – the glue of our socialization process for the total of American history (and for the history of much of the world for that matter) – has been marriage. There has been no more important “glue” for the social structure of America than marriage. Any threat to the sanctity or importance of marriage between two people puts our society at risk.

As the authors of When Marriage Disappears tell us, marriage works much better for those who are college educated than those who are not. The message here is clear. Don’t be deluded into thinking that education doesn’t matter when it comes to happiness and successful marriage.

Education is always the answer. Make no mistake about that. If America is to endure we must provide educational opportunity for all. And the success of marriage is education-related. Think about it!

We have researched and written about successful marriage around the world and have learned what makes marriage work. The results of our research are clear – successful marriages have common and pervasive characteristics, and they can be modeled!

Our hope is that the vast middle class of America will learn the lessons of successful marriage. Successful marriage is simple to understand. Yet, so many involved in the ultimate union of two people do not do the simple things required to make their marriage work. In the end, a successful union between two human beings in love is an accumulation of having done the simple things.

By Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz

Authors of Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Secrets of Successful Marriage Winner of the INDIE Book Awards GOLD Medal for Best Relationship Book Winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards GOLD Medal for Most Outstanding Relationships and Marriage Book 2009 Nautilus Book Awards Winner for Relationships.

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