Thursday, December 04, 2008

Marriage In Decline

Sara at Pal2Pal has a post up about the rage on both sides of the political spectrum over gay marriage. I'm not going to rehash the details. If you haven't heard the arguments especially with respect to the Mormon involvement in California's Proposition 8 read what Sara has to say. She has a long quote from Jonah Goldberg on the matter.

I'd like to look at a different aspect. The so called driving force behind the anti-gay marriage stance of so many: marriage is in trouble.

Jonah is right about marriage being in real trouble.

But guys wanting to get married to each other is the tail end of the horse. The real problem is divorce. Of course with so many divorced “leaders” in the Republican Party he can’t touch that.

And what is the answer to divorce given the current landscape (birth control, women in the work force, labor saving appliances, etc.)? Later marriage. Which would tend to argue for the Jewish solution: promiscuity in youth - fidelity with age. It is no longer true that Jews have the most pre-marital partners by a large margin so maybe society is working towards something Jews figured out a long time ago. The age of first marriage is creeping up in the general population. This is good.

So what is the cause of divorce? The washer-dryer combo. The electric iron. The automatic dishwasher. The old division of labor re: house hold chores no longer favors a lifetime commitment. Especially among youth who haven’t had time to figure out who they are.

Here is some very interesting source material on the subject:

Marriage In The Age of The Pill

Marriage In The Age of The Washer-Dryer

Excerpted from the book The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World.


Pal2Pal said...

After thinking about it, I am inclined to believe that divorce is only a symptom of today's expectation of "instant gratification" in a "disposable world."

It seems that today, no matter if someone marries young or waits until much later, by the time they do marry, they've gone through many sexual partners where there was little commitment to build a life together. When things get rough, the easiest route is to move on, not try to solve the problems. This attitude is carried over to marriage, which is fast losing any meaning at all beyond being a state issued piece of paper.

kurt9 said...

Divorce rates peaked in 1981 and have been declining since. Thus divorce is becoming a less significant effect in society over time. Also, I don't think marriage is in trouble among the middle-class on up. However, it is largely extinct in the underclass.

I went to my 20 year high school reunion a few years ago. About 90% of the people there were married and had been so for a good 10 years. Very few of them were divorced or on 2nd marriages. I think marriage went through a transition from the late 60's until the early 80's. Since then, the transformation has been completed and things have become stable.

I think the problems of marriage have been largely resolved. It is true that people marry later in life. However, those marriages are more stable than those where people marry early in life. I think one has much more life experience and perspective, and therefor, knows what they want out of life by age 30 than they do at age 20. Thus, one is more about to find someone who shares the same goals in life than when they are young.