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October 15, 2006

The End of the World as We Know It

Shakes here...

Raise the terror alert level—married couples are now the minority!

The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.

The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry.

Oh. So who cares then?

The usual suspects, natch.

“It does show that a lot of people are experimenting with alternatives before they get there,” [Steve Watters, the director of young adults for Focus on the Family] said. “The biggest concern is that those who still aspire to marriage are going to find fewer models. They’re also finding they’ve gotten so good at being single it’s hard to be at one with another person.”

Watters is pretty sure, though, that “the trend of fewer married couples was more a reflection of delaying marriage than rejection of it.” Which, in large part, is true—although he probably hasn’t spoken to any of the couples who are rejecting marriage in “solidarity with gay and lesbian couples who cannot legally marry in most states.”

And what about those gay and lesbian couples, anyhow?

The census survey estimated that 5.2 million couples, a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners. An additional 413,000 households were male couples, and 363,000 were female couples.

…Since 2000, those identifying themselves as unmarried opposite-sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent.

…In the rural Midwest, the number of households made up of male partners rose 77 percent since 2000.

Quite possibly, it’s not the number of households full-stop, but the number of households willing to identify themselves thusly which has risen significantly. “Gay Chic Reaches Bumblefuck!” “Queer Eye for the Farm Guy!” Or perhaps people are just sick and bloody tired of attempts to bully them into denying who they are. What a perfect legacy for the GOP/Conservative Christian crusade against the LGBT community—more out queers than ever before!

Anyhow, with three quarters of a million same-sex couples across America, the vast majority of whom aren’t allowed to get married, perhaps anyone who’s worried about the state of marriage in America would do well to champion the legalization of gay marriage. Of course, I suspect that for anyone who’s hand-wringing over married couples being a minority, tipping the scales back by offering marriage equality to same-sex couples isn’t the solution they have in mind.

October 15, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

Hmm, divorce rates by state:
Top five from 2004
Wyoming 5.3%
Tennessee 5.0%
Nevada 6.4%
Idaho 5.1%
Arkansas 6.3%
(note six states not reporting: CA, GA, HI, IN, LA, OK)

Lowest
Massachusetts 2.2%
Pennsylvannia 2.5%
Minnesota 2.8%
Ilinois 2.6%
Iowa 2.8%
(not a state) DC 1.7%

I don't know exactly what to make of this except that people north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Rockies don't demand wedding gifts before shacking up, whereas maybe people south and west of those lines figure sex out of marriage is enough of a sin that they need to serially marry their succession of bed partners. Nevada is a special case, the ease of residency requirements for divorce and no fault have made it a destination for decades. But it has to smart the defense of marriage folks to have Massachusetts and DC being the most faithful states and Arkansas and Wyoming the least. Those heartland, small town, rural values clearly come accompanied with a wandering eye.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Oct 15, 2006 1:13:34 PM

people north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Rockies don't demand wedding gifts before shacking up, whereas maybe people south and west of those lines figure sex out of marriage is enough of a sin that they need to serially marry their succession of bed partners.

I think this is the case, which is why it doesn't follow that these statistics reveal which states are most "faithful" in committed relationships, only in marriage. Chances are good that the states with the lowest divorce rates actually have lower rates of stable partnerships than the states with higher divorce rates, just because those latter states have more marriages, and marriages are still far more stable than the alternatives.

(It's worth stressing the point about serial divorces--that appears to more than account for the margin between the divorce rates of conservative Christians and others, according Barna's research.)

Posted by: Sanpete | Oct 15, 2006 1:46:37 PM

I could enjoy watching "Queer Eye For The Farm Guy."

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Oct 15, 2006 2:14:23 PM

Although it doesn't quite fit the bill, Neil, perhaps you'd enjoy this film.

Posted by: Karl the Grouchy Medievalist | Oct 15, 2006 2:25:44 PM

I could enjoy watching "Queer Eye For The Farm Guy."

I'll bet you could.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 15, 2006 4:35:03 PM

I don't think it's necessarily this complicated - I think it may jst be that there are a lot of people who are single, staying single, maybe living together at some point, maybe getting married eventaully, but being single, and comfortable with it. What I'd really like to know is why no one seems to want to speak politically for a constituency that's now in the majority? All that talk of "family values" and "marriage tax penalties" and guess what? They're not even in the majority.

I'm kidding, but only slightly. Does anyone here ever ask their representative, senator... anyone where they stand on issues that affect single people? Renatl costs? Car insurance rates? Why do we stay silent? Why are we so embarrassed about being single? Enough sdo that, when we even find out we're the majority, we're still talking about... them? I'm just wondering. Because, frankly I am tired of trying to feign interest in their weddings, their marital troubles, their annoying children and their political issues. I'd like some attention on my stuff, thank you very much. And, apparently, I'm not alone.

Posted by: weboy | Oct 15, 2006 4:35:10 PM

All that talk of "family values" and "marriage tax penalties" and guess what? They're not even in the majority.

Does it take a majority to have champions? Does your requirement to have a majority also extend to blacks, latinos and homosexuals? Seems to be the argument you are making there.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 15, 2006 4:56:33 PM

surely you arent suggesting that marriage is unimportant in terms of raising kids.

Every study shows that kids are best served by 2 parents living together in marriage.

Now whether thats straight or gay marriage or whatever I leave for another day.

Posted by: joe blow | Oct 15, 2006 9:13:20 PM

I didn't get married until I was 38. I think people are just waiting longer to get married.

Posted by: merlallen | Oct 16, 2006 8:51:05 AM

My mother went from being in a married household to a single person household two years ago. Why? Because my father died. Before you jump to conclusions, look at the number of elderly women living alone.

Posted by: JR | Oct 16, 2006 10:19:25 AM

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