I have to profoundly disagree with W. H Auden’s opinion. In the Vows section of the New York Times there was a fascinating article about the demographics of American marriage that debates Auden’s view of love (and marriage). You might ask why post Valentine’s Day I’m all hot and bothered about love lost in the pages of the Grey Lady or even why on earth I read the Vows section after 20 years of a successful marriage? Because these are the human stories that shed a light on future households.
The best article of the year (if you love demographics) and Pulitzer prize material, was buried in the proverbial arm pit of the paper. Since we (who read my missives) make our living selling and knowing the American household in its dreams and sometime odiferous reality, this tells of a Valentine’s Day story that is more love and less bond(age).
Titled “Falling Marriage Rates Reveal Economic Fault Line,” the article shows (with the facts and logic missing in most marital disagreements) that marriage is the greatest cause and predictor of household economic well being. “Despite the power of two, more Americans are choosing not to marry, creating a yawning economic divide.”
From a high-water mark of 70% in 1950 to the new low of 50.5% of households in 2012, the trend is clear. The article quotes a study that “found a link between the decline in the number of Americans who form and maintain stable, married families and the growth in income inequality.” Front page news for some. The story even quotes a study of same sex marriages which have the same positive economic results compared to the unwed.
The article quotes a young married man… “Being married gives us the desire to have greater financial security and less debt.”
Romeo and Juliette it’s not, but let’s think about the implications of a society where half of the households and more than half of the children are sentenced to the prevalent poverty of single family homes. This is not a shade of gray, but one of black and white and impact on more than half of the consumer economy.
We love our American post 1960’s Walt Whitman “Song of Myself” concept of individual freedom which celebrates what the article calls “the decision to go it alone.” However the article concludes, “the data is signaling marriage is on its way to looking like a gated community for the baccalaureate class, with ever-shrinking working class participation,” according to Jonathan Rauch of the Marriage Opportunity Council. Is this a culture or religious issue? A tax issue? I don’t know, but it needs to be discussed.
So Auden was absolutely wrong. Love (marriage) lasts forever and into the generations proven by the poverty of its absence and the undisputed richness of its presence.
Normally I would end with a thought to put on some great deodorant and get married, but this is a story about which even we are sweating. Maybe one day it will hit the front page.