February 24, 2022
Center for American Values
National Marriage Week
February 24, 2022
By Lauren Baldwin
Marriage, a cornerstone institution designed to culminate in the formation of stable families, has served as the bedrock of our Nation’s prosperity—a proven catalyst for national prosperity and success. Following National Marriage Week and Valentine’s Day this February, we are reminded of the importance of one of our greatest and most foundational institutions—and one that is under fierce attack.What defines a successful, healthy, and thriving nation? It’s not a nation’s gross domestic product, nor is it a nation’s eco-friendliness score. It’s not even free-market capitalism. One key measuring stick to use is marriage.
Sadly, fewer and fewer Americans consider marriage a source of happiness and fulfillment, despite married Americans consistently reporting being happier than unmarried Americans. This perception gap reveals the multigenerational assault that Washington bureaucrats, Hollywood, the progressive movement, and social and economic elites have collectively launched on marriage and the nuclear family.
Unfortunately, their efforts have worked—especially against America’s middle class.
For example: In 1949, 78.8% of all households included married couples, but in 2020, that number had fallen to a mere 48.2%. In 1979, America’s middle class led the Nation’s marriage rates with 84% of middle-class adults between the ages of 33 and 44 reported as married. Forty-two years later, only 66% of middle-class adults within the same age bracket are married.
Even more alarming, the United States now has the highest rate of children living in single-parent households of any nation in the world. With 23% of children living with one parent and no other adults, the United States has more than three times the world average of 7% of children raised by one parent.
No-fault divorce policies are partly to blame for the middle-class marital collapse. First introduced in the 1970s, no-fault divorce policies allow a spouse to dissolve the marriage without a specified reason. As a result, these policies have expanded the accessibility of divorce and destroyed the understanding that marriage relies on interdependence. Before the introduction of no-fault divorce, one spouse had to be at fault before the other spouse could request to end the marriage.
Progressive Hollywood elites have also significantly contributed to marriage’s disintegration. Television series and films that denigrate the nuclear family while glamorizing career-obsessed, urban singles and nonmarital sex have predictably shaped the lifestyle choices of the digitally raised millennials and Generation Z.
Additionally, elected officials, the same leaders who are entrusted to fight for the public’s well-being, shoulder blame for America’s marital nosedive because of their enforcement of draconian lockdowns and useless mandates to expand their self-righteous power. Bureaucrats passed nonsensical policies that discouraged couples to wed by placing limitations on social gatherings such as weddings and senselessly shutting down businesses, which created economic instability and diminished opportunities for marriage. During the pandemic, the government swelled to assume the role of a provider by removing the ability to provide for oneself and one’s family.
Unlike the United States, some nations have taken the lead in prioritizing marriage and the family unit. One such country is Hungary, which offers couples who marry before the bride’s 41st birthday subsidized loans of up to the United States dollar equivalent of $33,000, among other fiscal incentives. Unsurprisingly, Hungary witnessed a surge in marriages after enacting the 2019 policy, including the most September weddings the country has seen since 1979.
America should follow Hungary’s lead and elect leaders who are willing to fight for our prosperity, our families, and our most precious institution of all: marriage.
Lauren Baldwin serves as a Policy Analyst, Center for American Values for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).