Hardly Obsolete: Restoring the Health of Families

Chuck Donovan /

When a news outlet heralds the message that “4 in 10 say marriage becoming obsolete,” one can be sure that no one has surveyed the kids.

Today the Pew Research Center, in conjunction with Time Magazine, formally released the results of a poll that, in the words of one Associated Press writer, underscores the existence of “rapidly changing notions of the American family.” It’s an ideological spin on what is in fact a slowly evolving situation that culture shapers and policymakers could and should be doing much more to address.

The core statement about the coming obsolescence of marriage is rooted in Pew’s benchmark finding that only 28 percent of U.S. adults believed marriage was obsolete in 1978, whereas 39 percent hold that belief today. That is indeed a significant increase, but it is incremental—about one-third of a percentage point per year. Interpretations of the Pew report are taking a decidedly ideological view on other topics as well, including the finding that about 29 percent of children under age 18 now live with parents who are divorced or never married. That number is up fivefold from 1960, but it is a long way from making a majority. (more…)