Tag Archives: marriage

About Those Dire Predictions…

Today is the second annual Women’s March.

The first one was followed by an eventful year for women–from #metoo to vastly increased civic activism to record numbers of women running for political office. Those activities haven’t been universally applauded, but that’s nothing new. Every time we women assert ourselves, we are met with the usual warnings: children will be neglected or traumatized, marriages will fail, society will suffer, we women will enter old age embittered and alone.

I know the defenders of patriarchy will be disappointed, but it really doesn’t work that way.

A couple of weeks ago, I referenced Stephanie Coontz’ book The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, in which–among other things–Coontz reminded us that “Leave it to Beaver” wasn’t a documentary. In 2016, she updated the book, and the Council on Contemporary Families, a research institute she heads, issued a report on some of the data that would be part of the revision. That data just goes to show how often all those dire predictions about the effects of social change turn out to be wrong.

A few examples:

In the early 1990s, there was much hand-wringing about “scarlet women” and rising out-of-wedlock births; the warning was that the children would become juvenile “super predators,” morally-impoverished and violent.

But between 1993 and 2010, sexual assaults and intimate partner violence dropped by more than 60 percent. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, the murder rate in 2013 was lower than at any time since the records began in 1960. Since 1994, juvenile crime rates have plummeted by more than 60 percent, even though the proportion of children born out of wedlock has risen to 40 percent.

We were warned that women who were selfish enough to pursue both motherhood and careers would inevitably “outsource” our maternal responsibilities and/or neglect our children. We can skip the guilt. (Now they tell me!)

Today, both single and working moms spend more time with their children than married homemaker mothers did back in 1965. And, according to David Cotter, Joan Hermsen, and Paula England’s brief report on Moms and Jobs, educated professionals – the women most likely to work outside the home – spend many more hours in child care than their less-educated counterparts.

Remember when pundits and scolds warned that no-fault divorce laws spelled the end of the American family?

In each state that adopted no-fault, the next five years saw an eight to 16 percent decline in suicide rate of wives and a 30 percent drop in domestic violence. Although no-fault divorce is now universal, divorce rates are actually falling.

Well–so maybe no-fault divorce didn’t destroy the institution of marriage, but legal recognition of same-sex marriage will surely do it; for one thing, it will never be accepted by the American public; for another, think of the children!

As late as 1996, 65 percent of Americans opposed same sex marriage, with just 27 percent in favor. Yet by 2011, 53 percent favored same-sex marriage, paving the way for its legalization in 2015. Definitive, long-term studies now show that children raised by two parents of the same sex turn out fine.

There’s much more, but you all get the drift. Bottom line: keeping marriage and the unequal relations between the sexes “the way they always were” is neither necessary nor desirable.

Ironically, although the public has adapted, politicians and government haven’t.

Since 1993, the federal government has made no substantive progress toward policies that help women and men reconcile work and family obligations, while other countries have leapt ahead. In 1993 the Family and Medical Leave Act gave workers in large companies up to 12 weeks unpaid job-protected leave. But 23 years later, only 13 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave, and 44 percent don’t even have the right to unpaid leave. By contrast, every other wealthy country now guarantees more than 12 weeks of paid leave to new mothers, limits the maximum length of the work week, and mandates paid annual vacations. Most also offer paid leave to fathers. The result? American workers express higher levels of work-family conflict than their European counterparts. And the U.S. has fallen from 6th to 17th place in female labor participation among 22 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development since 1990. The one exception to this backwardness? The Pentagon, which runs the best affordable and universal childcare system in the country and just instituted 12 weeks paid maternity leave.

Other things that haven’t improved in the past quarter-century? Women’s reproductive rights and wage inequality. And as the #metoo movement has illustrated, sexual harassment.

In her speech at the Golden Globes, Oprah predicted that “change is coming.” As far as I’m concerned, it can’t come soon enough.

Meanwhile, I’m going to the March.

Correlation is Not Causation

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Indiana’s Governor has been emphasizing the importance of strong families, and promising that measures taken by his administration will be “family friendly.” (Well, to be accurate, they’ll be friendly for heterosexual families…)

Family is a key indicator of success and we’re looking for ways that we can encourage more young people to get married, to stay married, to wait to have children until they’re married is very important,” he said.

Very nice. Unfortunately, the Governor’s cart is in front of his horse.

There is a raft of research showing that people who enjoy financial security are more likely to stay married. There’s a reason for the statistic the Governor shared, to the effect that upper-income folks and college graduates are more likely to have stable marriages–people who aren’t sweating the rent are more likely to stay married.

The Governor also said that his administration has been putting “the interests of strong families at the very center of our policies on development.”

Sorry, but without policies that help the working poor make ends meet, that’s just blowing smoke.

A living wage is what enables and facilitates stable marriages. It isn’t the other way around.

Giving God a Bad Name, Episode Ten Zillion

Oh Virginia! You are just so not for lovers.

An official of the state that just handed Eric Cantor his walking papers–a result partially attributed to the Jewish Cantor’s inability to “connect” with his Evangelical Christian base–has refused to marry two people who don’t believe in God.

Bud Roth is a court appointed officiant in Franklin County, Virginia. He performs wedding ceremonies for couples who go to the courthouse to get married. Atheists, however, have no right to get married as far as he’s concerned….

The couple contacted the county clerk, who was floored by their story. She suggested they contact the judge who appointed Roth in the first place. So they wrote a letter to Judge William Alexander who didn’t see any problem at all with a court officiant refusing to marry a couple simply because they don’t share his religious beliefs. The judge referred the couple to the other court appointed officiant who agreed to perform the civil ceremony this coming Monday.

Apparently, the officiant and judge are among the growing number of theocrats who believe that “religious liberty” is just for Christians. (You have the “liberty” to endorse the CORRECT beliefs, which are, of course, mine…)

I guess Virginia is just for CHRISTIAN lovers…..

Cause and Effect

One of the first rules of academic research is: don’t confuse correlation with causation. In other words, just because two things are related doesn’t mean that one of them caused the other.

Of course, sometimes there is correlation and causation; one thing did cause the other. In those cases, the trick is figuring out which is cause and which is effect.

In Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, economics reporter Annie Lowery took a closer look at the conventional wisdom that marriage “lifts children and families out of poverty.” As she notes, no one disputes the fact that “where marriage is, poverty tends not to be.” There is a definite correlation between marriage and a whole host of positive outcomes for children and families.

That, however, doesn’t tell us that marriage cures poverty. Indeed, recent research suggests we’ve gotten the equation backwards. Living in poverty is a barrier to getting and staying married.  W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, puts the issue rather starkly: “Unless we improve the fortunes of poor working people, particularly poor working men, we aren’t going to see marriage coming back.”

The research strongly suggests that the biggest problem facing impoverished people isn’t the fact that they’re single. It’s–wait for it–not enough money. And until that problem is addressed, all the millions of dollars spent on programs offering “relationship counseling” and marriage promotion might just as well be flushed down the commode.

Maybe the millions of dollars going to the various providers of “faith-based” marital advice and middle-class “values” counseling might better be spent on ameliorating poverty. Love is grand, but food comes first.

Quick–More Lipstick!

As Mike Pence has doggedly pursued his “Look, Ma…I’m really a moderate!” remake, I’ve heard several people describe the effort with that old saying about putting lipstick on a pig.

Problem is, no matter how much Revlon you slather on that porker, it’s still a pig.

During a meeting attended by a variety of health agencies last week, when the subject of health outreach at Black Expo came up, attendees were told of a new directive issued by the Governor’s office. No agency receiving state funds may distribute condoms. That prohibition includes–but, as we lawyer-types like to say, is not limited to–Black Expo.

According to the Staff person delivering this news, this edict was justified by the fact that “only married people should have sex.” (And I guess they’ll have to buy their own condoms.) Evidently, no one in attendance suggested an obvious fix–that anyone receiving a condom be made to submit an affidavit to the effect that 1)he is married; and 2) he will use it only when having sex with his wife.

Pence is obviously unaware of a 1972 Supreme Court case (Eisenstadt v. Baird for my fellow nerds) directly on point. The Court said unmarried people have the same right to possess contraception as married ones. But then, our Governor is still insisting that Marbury v. Madison, the case that established judicial review, was wrongly decided.

Of course, Pence doesn’t look to the law for guidance anyway. He looks to his bible and like Micah Clark, he reads it literally.