Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Love and Marriage: The New American Divide

The decline of marriage among the underclass.

Do love and marriage still go together like a horse and carriage? Not for the lower class white population in America. So says Charles Murray in his controversial new book  "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577170733817181646.html

Murray contrasted two theoretical predominately white communities, Belmont (after a upper middle class suburb near Boston) and Fishtown (after a Philadelphia working class neighborhood.) Murray found that  marriage in both communities declined from the 1960s to 1980s but stabilized for the upper middle class in the 1980s at about 83%. However for the lower class Fishtown community, marriage continued to decline at an accelerating rate until now in 2010 just 48% are married. This means that within the same broad racial classification there is now a marriage gap between the upper and lower middle classes of 35%.

 Charles Murray found that single parenthood showed a similar trend, with nonmarital white births in 1960 totalling just 2% and increasing to 6% by 1970 among lower class whites. Yet by 2008 there was a non-marital birth gap between the non-college age women of Fishtown and the college educated women of Belmont of 38%. Almost half of lower middle class women are now having children out of wedlock while  only 6% of upper class white women are having  children of outside of marriage.

Charles Murray maintains that this cultural divergence is a new phenomenon. The upper middle class in 1960 "lived a more expensive life, but not a much different life." Back then most people watched the same three channels, followed the same fashion trends, saw the same movies, read the same magazines, ate the same food, danced the same dances and listened to the same #1 song regardless of income status. Murray's research focused on the 5 decades including the boom years of the 1980s, 1990s and the middle 2000s leading up to the recession of 2008, and he discovered that the average male employed in a working class occupation earned as much approaching year 2010 as  he did in 1960. The reason today's lower class men are not getting married is not because wages are too low. The difference is that five decades later social norms have deteriorated among the lower middle class and as a result men aren't getting married  simply because the culture no longer requires them to get married first to have a long term sexual relationship and children.

During these five decades women have increased their participation in the workforce from 20% in 1960 to 80% today. Due to the phenomenon of hypergamy, the upwardly mobile women are going to gravitate to upwardly mobile men, accentuating this newly developed cultural divide.http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/repairing-relationships/201110/are-women-no-longer-moving-in-marriage

Amy Wax observed that lower class women of all races or ethnic groups are becoming disillusioned at the idea of marrying lower class men who display such poor personal qualities as "drug use, criminality, financial irresponsibility, violence, poor work ethic, defiant attitudes and flagrant sexual infidelity." To lower class women, marriageable men who are "steady, faithful, considerate and industrious" are as common as a four leaf clover.

Many lower middle class women are simply  giving up on the possibility of marriage. Thus the marriage and birth divide will continue to accelerate as more and more of these jaded women drop out of the marriage pool, producing more children without the stabilizing effect of a father in the home who can temper, channel, discipline and subdue childhood and adolescent male aggression. This will inflate what George Gilder coined "the system of the unmarried," where the qualities that are most valued in the single world like masculine power, violence, sexual magnetism and the negative male role model are embraced.

As fatherless males from the lower middle class enter puberty they will be attracted to the plethora of gangs that plague our nation in every town from coast to coast. The upper middle class people are already reacting to this increase in violence in lower middle class neighborhoods  by isolating in upscale communities in what Murray terms "SuperZIPs" like Agoura Hills, California, Glencoe, Illinois, Short Hills, New Jersey, Gladwyne, Pennsylvania and of course Beverly Hills 90210. Our future is one of walled upper middle class communities surrounded by lawless lower middle class battlefields terrorized by angry young males.

Charles Murray did not offer a  plan in his book to reverse this alarming cultural divide. We urge the president and the leaders of both parties to put partisan bickering aside and focus on this new internal threat to the future of our nation. Our country is splitting apart at the seams.

 

 

 

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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