Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Here's an article from the new Chronicle of Higher Education, by two Middlebury sociology professors, on "what if marriage is bad for us?" There are several striking things about it, including the lack of any reference to the welfare of children. And there's this quote:
With all that marriage supporters promise —wealth, health, stability, happiness, sustainability—our country finds itself confronted with a paradox: Those who would appear to gain the most from marriage are the same ones who prove most resistant to its charms. Study after study has found that it is the poor in the United States who are least likely to wed. The people who get married are the same ones who already benefit most from all our social institutions: the "haves." They benefit even more when they convince everyone that the benefits are evenly distributed.
Too often we are presented with the false choice between a lifelong, loving marriage and a lonely, unmarried life. But those are far from the only options. We should consider the way people actually live: serial monogamy, polyamory, even polygamy.
The authors don't explain how or why those three options are somehow less likely than marriage to discriminate against the "have nots" (even though the three, you'd think, are "institutions" too). Indeed, maybe the "have nots" do worse under those other options? Others can chime in with the evidence, but it strikes me that mothers who are economically vulnerable -- to say nothing of children -- have not been well served under the system of effective serial monogamy (with marriage or not) that's become partly legitimized in recent decades.