While tabloid fare on marital fiascos (such as the recent demise of the Schwarzenegger–Shriver marriage) tends to dominate headlines, breaking news actually bodes well for marriage in America.
According to a report based on census data released Wednesday, marriages are lasting longer, with three in four couples who married after 1990 celebrating their 10th anniversary. In fact, more than half of the nation’s married couples have been together for at least 15 years.
This is good news not only for those families but for society as well, given that intact families tend to fare better financially and marital satisfaction has been linked to better physical and emotional health. The average income of single men is just 60 percent of that of married men, and single women’s average income is just 40 percent of their married counterparts. And the economic benefits of marriage are not for adults alone. Marriage can decrease the likelihood of child poverty by more than 80 percent.
And there’s good news regarding the marital prospects of the next generation—giving “legs” to the rising trend of marital longevity. Children tend to follow the marital trajectory of their parents. Children whose parents enjoy a stable marriage tend to have higher expectations for their own marriages and experience greater marital satisfaction, while children who lived through parental divorce are themselves more likely to divorce.
In addition, research by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia found that greater educational attainment is linked to greater marital stability and that people without a college degree are three times as likely as those who graduated college to divorce within the first 10 years of marriage. Given that children from intact families tend to have better academic achievement and higher educational attainment, the current increase in the longevity of marriage bodes well for the next generation’s marital relationships as well.
Thus, the benefits associated with the upward trend in long-lasting marriages can have ripple effects for generations to come.