Monday, December 20, 2010

"Middle America" backing away from marriage

Image:  UVA sociologist and marriage researcher Bradford Wilcox

The Daily Progress has an interesting article this morning about research from UVA sociologist Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project.  His findings are that marriage is declining most precipitously as an institution among blue collar Americans without college educations:

While college-educated people are tending to choose to get and to stay married, more high-school educated people are choosing to live together or raise children without two parents in the household, he said.

The article adds:

Wilcox blames these shifts on male blue-collar wages, less church or civic organization attendance and a shift in belief in the importance of marriage.

“Fewer kids today are living with their Mom and Dad,” Wilcox said. “If we think about a good job and a good marriage as key ingredients to the American Dream, this marriage gap in Middle America and Poor America makes [this goal] harder for these kids to achieve.”

Wilcox said it’s important for educated people to champion marriage and for civic organizations to reach out to people to teach the importance of marriage for both adults and children.

He said Middle Americans are more likely to shape their beliefs on marriage and relationships from Hollywood than are the higher educated.

“One of the most striking findings in this report is that the cultural and economic foundations of marriage appear to be growing stronger among the educated and the affluent, even as they deteriorate among Middle Americans,” Wilcox said. “Almost all Americans want to be happily married, but the decline of the institutional model of marriage and the rise of the soul-mate model of marriage makes marriage less accessible to Middle Americans.”

This article challenges the church to be faithful in preaching and teaching Biblical standards for marriage and family.  It helps us understand better the cultural circumstances we are facing.  It also challenges us to be sensitive to preaching the gospel and ministering to all strata of society.  In reformed churches, in particular, I think we have a tendency to aim our preaching and ministry toward the college educated.  This reminds us that we need to exercise what the Puritans called "plain preaching" which is as understandable as possible to all men as possible.


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