Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is Marriage a Luxury Good?

 I recently read an article in the New York Times that stated more than half of births to American women under 30 happen outside of marriage. I thought that maybe this trend indicated that more Americans are viewing marriage as a choice, not a mandatory motion to go through to have a child. But when I got deeper into the statistics, I found that this was untrue. "About 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, compared with 62 percent of women with some post-secondary schooling and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less" Furthermore, statistics that show college-educated women get divorced less often than their less-educated counterparts. So not only is getting married a luxury good, staying married is as well.

So why aren't women getting married anymore? It appears that women's views on marriage have changed. Certainly the stigma of single motherhood has significantly decreased. Another reason is that women have increased earning power and don't need a husband to support them and their children.

But there's another interesting answer. A different New York Times piece cited a new book concluding "low-income women [see] marriage not as the beginning of their lives, but as the payoff." Women are choosing to wait to get married until "they had put together enough resources to have a nice wedding." Of course, they are also waiting to find a man who is also settled and stable enough to be a good husband, but this focus on the wedding bothers me because it doesn't take a big, expensive wedding to get married. All it takes is a trip to the courthouse and - here in Cook County - $60. During Adam's and my "pre-engagement" period, I thought a lot about this. I knew I wanted a big, traditional wedding, and that it was likely we would have one, but I forced myself to strip all of that away and think about the courthouse. If all we did was go to the courthouse and sign a piece of paper, would I still want to marry Adam? The answer was yes, because a marriage is so much more than a wedding.

Marriage is a valuable social institution. It's so valuable that millions of Americans are fighting to gain access to it. Marriage helps you live longer, make more money, and gives your kids a better, more stable life. It's unfortunate that fewer people are receiving these benefits because they think they can't afford a wedding.

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