NEWS FROM THE CENTER FRIDAY DIGEST December 10, 2021 - Marriage and Family in the Post-COVID World
In September 2021, Wilcox and his team surveyed men and women between the ages of 18-55 about family formation. What they discovered is that the pandemic has widened the marriage/family gap between the rich and the poor, the religious and the non-religious, and conservative and the liberal.
The study found that since the pandemic started in March 2020, the desire to marry among higher-income Americans (those making more than $100,000 per year) has increased 9 percent and the desire to have children increased by 1 percent.
But the converse is true among middle-to-lower income Americans. While the desire to get married (the good news) has increased at a lower rate – 4 percent for the middle-class and 2 percent for lower-income Americans -- the desire to have children decreased 6 percent for the middle class, and an alarming 11 percent for the lower class.
When Wilcox’s team looked at the differences between religious and non-religious, they found that the desire to marry among unmarried adults increased by 8 percent among those who regularly attend worship services but had not increased at all among the non-religious. The desire to have children fell by 1 percent – not a cause for alarm – among the religious, but by a net of 11 percent among the non-religious.
Also the study found that Republicans were more interested in getting married than Democrats or Independents, and while the desire to have children rose by 1 percentage point for Republicans, it dropped dramatically for independents (11 percent) and Democrats (12 percent).
As the study notes, “In a pandemic-haunted world … three ingredients have emerged as signally important for family formation in the United States: money, hope, and a deep dedication to family. And the rich, religious, and the Republicans are generally more likely to possess one or more of these ingredients, compared to their lower-income, secular, and Democrat/Independent-affiliated fellow citizens.”
For those of us with a religious and conservative bent, on the surface, this is intriguing news – i.e., a coming generation of more religious/conservative adults. But on the other hand, as Wilcox points out, these numbers will also continue to accelerate the deepening divide in each of these areas.
Why? Because if marriage rates continue to dip among the middle and lower classes and non-religious, there will still be children born out of wedlock (even if the number of children may be going down) with the associated issues of poverty, societal alienation, and identity issues that come with it.
Meanwhile, those children whose parents are married and have raised them with financial and parental security, are more likely to thrive.
While the latter situation is the ideal, there are some alarming signs that come with it, particularly clashes between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots” –children born into stable homes having built-in advantages over those who were not and accelerating the helplessness and alienation of children who are not born and raised in beneficial circumstances.
The study concludes, “As the pandemic lifts, the nation is likely to see a deepening divide between the affluent and everybody else, between the religious and the secular, and between Republicans and Democrats in their propensity to marry and have children.”
As noted by the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector over a decade ago, the result becomes a caste society that only perpetuates the cycle, which has greatly increased with the breakdown of marriage and family among the middle and lower classes, of helplessness and the corresponding dependences among the poor as they see those raised in stable families continue to thrive..
My hope for a post-pandemic America is one where every American -- regardless of class -- sees the value of getting married, having children, and raising those children in a stable, loving home, regardless of material comfort or lack of material comfort. That is a scenario that will bring Americans together rather than further drive us apart. This major new study confirms that the state and fate of the American family and marriage continues to be the most important bellwether and predicator of national weakness or strength.
Timothy S. Goeglein is the vice president of government and external relations at Focus on the Family in Washington DC. This article was first printed by and is reprinted here with the permission of Epoch Times.
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