In the Wall Street Journa l, my onetime sparring partner Kay Hymowitz argues that the discussion over the meltdown of white, middle-class marriage comes at a time when white, middle class marriages are particularly likely to last; the divorce rate for college-educated women is remarkably low. And despite the fact that her piece includes a sarcastic shoutout to Double X , I think she is mostly right. For all the talk of desperately bored empty nesters, marital satisfaction generally suffers when kids come along and rises when kids leave. The median age of first divorce for women is 29, not 59; it seems that the arrival of children is more likely to challenge a marriage than their sudden disappearance.
Oddly, Hymowitz also insists that marriage is "suffering a full-scale crisis of consumer confidence" among this same subgroup, and reminds us that "in any crisis, people tend to panic." In defense of this claim she cites the Sandra Tsing Loh's piece in the Atlantic , our discussion , John Edwards, and Mark Sanford. (The Gosselins, surely more powerful cultural actors than any of the former, go unmentioned.) So which is it? Is the institution of marriage safe and stable or in such a precarious position that a single excitable governor can destroy it forever?
I just don't see anyone panicking. If unfaithful politicians could convince us to give up on long-term partnerships, we’d have stopped marrying long ago, and I have serious trouble believing that an Atlantic feature can successfuly undermine Americans' particularly romantic view of the practice. Every relevant survey I’ve seen indicates that the vast majority of Millenials aspire to marriage someday, perhaps even more so than the previous generation. That a small number of people are trying to temper and qualify the romantic mythos of longterm pairbonding hardly amounts to a crisis. Or news.
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