- Jul 5, 2004
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More "tendentious twaddle" from the press. The Far Left continues to promote the idea of the "death of marriage" because its goal is to destroy the family unit.
Monday, October 16, 2006
New "Death of Marriage" Claim Amounts to Just Another Lie
Posted by: Michael Medved at 4:33 AM
A new report from the Census Bureau has produced new proclamations of “the death of marriage.” The Seattle Times featured a front page article today (Sunday) declaring “Married Couples Outnumbered for the First Time” while the New York Times headlined the same material with the announcement: “It’s Official: To Be Married Means to be Outnumbered.”
This interpretation of the data is ridiculous, manipulative and profoundly misleading at a time when statistics show that at least 85% of Americans will eventually marry, and that more than 60% of U.S. adults above the age of 25 are currently married. Most unmarried adults are aging widows and widowers (a rapidly increasing number) or else young people below age 25 who haven’t yet married, but expect to get hitched eventually.
So what, exactly, are the “experts” talking about when they suggest that married people are now “outnumbered?”
The New York Times announces this conclusion in the following way: “Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority…The American Community Survey, released recently by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7%, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples….”
This may sound worrisome, until you realize that this highly touted figure involves households, not individuals.
To get some sense of the difference, imagine a block on a suburban cul de sac that includes six homes. Three of them are occupied by married couples; the other three are in inhabited by an elderly widow, living alone; a struggling single mom with her kids, and a swinging bachelor with a succession of glamorous dates. In other words, there are a total of six households on “Wisteria Court” and, like the national figures, only half of them feature married couples. But of the nine adults (total) who reside on this block, two thirds are currently married.
This little example illustrates the deceptive, dishonest way that major news outlets have decided to trumpet the new figures. Counting “households” as discrete units, two people who have been married for a long time are balanced by a single person who’s never yet married. The current decline in married couples as a percentage of all households reflects demographic factors concerning the huge baby boom generation: with more boomers counting as officially “unmarried” because they’re victims of divorce, or else widows and widowers.
Despite the desire by critics of traditional marriage to promote “living together” arrangements as the hip new alternative to matrimony, the numbers of co-habiting couples remain relatively low. According to the New York Times, such heterosexual couples represent “a little more than 5 percent of all households” – in other words, they’re outnumbered by currently married couples by ten to one. Meanwhile, the gay couples that have seized so much attention and publicity remain shockingly rare: the Census Bureau reports a total of 776,000 same sex households that include partners who say “they share living quarters and have a close personal relationship with the householder.” Even assuming that all these “close personal relationships” are sexual (an extremely questionable, even dubious assumption) this means that gay couples comprise barely 0.6% of US households. Even in San Francisco, the top city (surprise, surprise!) for such living arrangements, gay male couples are only 2% of total households.
The New York Times report on these new figures featured not only a misleading headline, but also a totally dishonest subhead, declaring “Fewer Tying the Knot.” Meanwhile, in the body of the report, the Times itself contradicted that announcement, writing (accurately) that “the total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry.” If the total number of married couples is indeed “higher than ever,” then how can the paper dishonestly shock its readers by suggesting “Fewer Tying the Knot”? Meanwhile, Times reporter Sam Roberts also quotes Pamela J. Smock, a researcher at the University of Michigan Population Studies Center, who 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.”
Of course, other research consistently indicates that living together before marriage increases, rather than decreases, the risks of divorce, but at least Ms. Smock acknowledges that nearly all young Americans hope to be married.
By playing games with numbers--- suggesting falsely that married couples are now a dying breed—advocates of less traditional living arrangements help to scare prospective mates away from matrimonial commitment. The pernicious myth of the 50% divorce rate (divorce rates have been going down consistently since 1981, and never reached 50% of all first marriages) has definitely entered public consciousness and helped to erode the idea of marital norms and permanent relationships. Honest statistics and impartial analysis indicate that significant majorities of all couples getting married for the first time will stay married until one of the partners dies.
Those statistics also show that married Americans need not feel “outnumbered” or outmoded, despite tendentious twaddle in the press. Dr. William H. Frey, a demographer at the liberal Brookings Institution, proudly told the Times: “This would seem to close the book on the Ozzie and Harriet era that characterized much of the last century.”
Actually, he ought to re-open the book, and consider some of the overwhelming evidence that the traditional family, while undoubtedly beleaguered by often hostile forces in media, academia, government and elsewhere, has managed to survive and even, in some places, to thrive.