I am truly honored to post the following...
After reading a fantastic post written by Virginia's very own AnonymousIsAWoman, I asked the author if there was any way that they would mind if I were to recreate it here at West of Shockoe. The answer was a resounding yes, and I must say, I was thrilled. So, without further adieu, I give you AnonymousIsAWoman on The Real Decline of Family Values.
While the rightwing has been off protecting the American family from the menace of gay couples wanting domestic unions, it turns out that the real threat to heterosexual marriage is economic and income inequality. And according to an article in today's Washington Post, it always has been. Who knew?Thanks again, AIAW. What an excellent post.
As this report points out, marriage rates have declined among the lower middleclass and working class since 1970. Here's the money quote:"The culture is shifting, and marriage has almost become a luxury item, one that only the well educated and well paid are interested in,' said Isabel V. Sawhill, an expert on marriage and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.So while upper middleclass couples are still marrying, poorer people - including the offspring of the once secure and prosperous working middleclass - no longer can afford this institution. They are cohabiting and even having children out of wedlock.
"Marriage has declined across all income groups, but it has declined far less among couples who make the most money and have the best education. These couples are also less likely to divorce. Many demographers peg the rise of a class-based marriage gap to the erosion since 1970 of the broad-based economic prosperity that followed World War II.
"`We seem to be reverting to a much older pattern, when elites marry and a great many others live together and have kids,' said Peter Francese, demographic trends analyst for Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising firm."
I know that a lot of conservatives will look at the date when the decline started and point out that it also coincided with the so-called sexual revolution and looser morals usually associated with social movements in the 60s and early 70s. And their argument has some plausibility on the surface.
That was my era and I was very much a part of the "Woodstock Generation" usually linked to more liberal social values including the decline of marriage and the rise of couples just living together. In fact, I actually still have my tickets to the Woodstock Music and Art Festival - all three days of it, and they are in Mint condition, because by the time I arrived, the gates had been trampled and the festival organizers had given up on ticket collection.
But the actual number of hippies who pursued the "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" lifestyle was far smaller than it would appear. They captured the imagination of the media but had fewer real followers than people think.
They were, indeed, the children of the upper class elites and they often were in the intellectual avante-garde. Indeed, in the 50s, 60s and early 70s the children of the working class were usually the most conservative kids. They were the ones who served in Vietnam, got married at an early age, had babies, and worked at regular jobs. Those who challenged institutions, including religion and marriage, were college kids.
But once they graduated - and had finished posing for Life Magazine and having fun giving their parents gray hair - they were actually the ones who took the professional jobs, married fellow professionals and raised the typical middleclass family with two college bound offspring. Basically, the WaPo article and the study it cited have confirmed my own experience and observation of this.
Meanwhile, after the 70s, there was a precipitous drop in well being among working class Americans and with their economic decline, their marriage rates have also dropped.
The real danger in this is that many studies have found and confirmed the conventional wisdom that those who are in stable marriages often are better off economically and their children do better in school and in life. The United States can't afford to have so many people sinking into an underclass because of economic inequality.
So, I would suggest that if family values oriented conservatives are really interested in saving the institution of the American family, they might want to figure out how to make capitalism work, once again, in a way that allows ordinary people to share in the fruits of economic prosperity, the way they did back in the 50s and 60s when the slogan "what's good for America's business is good for America" was actually still believable by the vast majority of real Americans.