Marriage and the Middle Class

I received my copy of Propositions in the mail today, and the title caught my attention:  What’s Missing From Our Middle Class Debate?  The author, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, has a long list of credentials, including her 9 year stint as co-director of Rutger’s National Marriage Project.

In her discussion of the dwindling middle class, Whitehead cites a recent study by the Pew Research Center.  The data from this study suggests that a decline in marriage is directly correlated to the decline in the middle class.

Whitehead also speaks of the relationship between unwed motherhood and moderately educated mothers:  “As fewer moderately educated Americans are able to form lasting marriages, their family lives become more difficult.”

The author refers to marriage as the “prudential institution” of our nation’s long history, and she sees it as “the means by which individuals who are not born to great fortune or favor can form a cooperative union to share responsibilities of a family household and especially the tasks of nurturing and educating children.”

Whitehead concludes her essay with two questions that are worthy of our consideration: (1)  Can we realistically hope to rebuild the middle class while accepting the continuing decline of marriage, the very institution on which our middle class most clearly depends? (2)  Can we Americans realistically hope for a middle class majority if we no longer hope and strive for a married majority?

I have always believed that the family is the load-bearing pillar of American society.  As such, we should give some contemplation as to what we can do to strengthen it.

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