Working-class marriage rate hurt by weak church efforts

Credit: Mazur/

A “national retreat” from marriage could worsen social divides between the married and unmarried and plummeting rates are partly due to religious groups failing to reach the working class, says one scholar.

“We have seen that Catholic and mainline Protestant churches have not been successful in reaching poor working class Americans and bringing them into the pews on a regular basis, particularly men,” W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project told CNA July 28.

He said that religious communities, which have provided a significant source of community support for marriage, bear some responsibility for trends like the decline in marriage rates.

Wilcox suggested churches need to “be more intentional in figuring out what kind of messages and ministries will be more effective in drawing working class and poor Americans back into the fold.”

A study from the Urban Institute suggests that among women in the “Millennial” generation, those born from 1980 to 1990, less than 70 percent will marry by age 40 at the present marriage rate. If the downward trend in marriage rates continues, even fewer will marry. Even if marriage rates rebound, fewer women will be married than those of previous generations.

By comparison, 91 percent of women were married by age 40 in 1990, 87 percent in 2000 and 82 percent in 2010.

The Urban Institute also found a divergence in marriage rates by race and education. The study’s authors project “steeper decreases” in marriage rates for Hispanic women and non-Hispanic black women, compared to non-Hispanic white women. Fewer than half of non-Hispanic black women and men will have married by age 40, in one projected scenario.

Those without a four-year degree will face “much steeper decreases in marriage.” Millennials who have graduated college are “either slightly less or no less likely to marry than the generation preceding them.”

Wilcox voiced concern that the decline in marriage is concentrated among “less educated and more economically insecure Americans.”

“We’re going to see a growing social divide in America in part because of the retreat from marriage.”

He said that young adults are “more likely to flourish emotionally and socially when they are married.”

“We know that kids are more likely to thrive educationally, economically and socially when they are raised in a married household,” he said. “And we know that the nation’s retreat from marriage is a significant contributor to family inequality in America.”

Wilcox said that both conservative and liberal explanations for the decline in marriage have merit.

“Conservatives will argue that this trend is rooted either in poor public policies that have a tendency to undercut marriage or in cultural shifts, for instance, expressive individualism or feminism,” he said.

“I think progressives tend to point the finger at economic changes that have made working class and poor men's job prospects bleaker.”

Marriage is similarly unpopular across the Atlantic. The numbers of weddings are at historic lows in France and have significantly decreased in Italy, Ireland, Poland and Portugal, as well as in other European countries, the U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports.

Antonio Golini, chairman of Italy’s National Institute for Statistics, told the Guardian that the fall is “very significant” and “beyond all expectation.”

He said the decline is due to cultural causes like the fact that many young people live together without marrying. He said there are also economic factors, such as wariness of a costly wedding celebration during a time of economic crisis.

About half of Europeans aged 18-30 still live with their parents, in part due to a lack of employment, high debt, and high property costs. Many no longer see the need for marriage, favoring a life without commitment. In France many choose civil partnerships as an alternative to civil marriage.

Teresa Castro-Martin, a research professor in population studies at the Spanish National Research Council, said a lack of stable jobs and credit harms family formation.

The average age for a newlywed man is now 37.2 years, an increase of 10 years since the 1980s.

“Marriage has traditionally been a rite of passage to adulthood but it has lost its centrality,” she told the Guardian.


In our time

Archbishop José H. Gomez

As I write, I’ve just read the sad news that 90 Christians have been kidnapped from two villages in Syria. Of course we were all shocked earlier this month by the news that 21 Coptic Christians were executed in Syria — killed, as Pope Francis said, “for the mere fact of being Christians.” 

Together in Mission 300x250


March 2015
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31

March 1, 2015

  • Sunday, March 1

    Special Needs Mass, 10 a.m., Father Maguire Council Hall, 4315 N. Vincent Ave, Covina.Mass for persons with physical and intellectual disabilities, their families and caregivers. For more information, contact Elizabeth, (909) 599-9833,

    Don Bosco Tech Spring Open House, Mass: 10 a.m., Open House: 12-3 p.m., Don Bosco Technical Institute, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead. (626) 940-2000.

    Third Order Lay Carmelite Community Q & A Meeting, 1-4 p.m., St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church, 12930 Hamlin St., North Hollywood. The Order is located throughout the Los Angeles area and open to new membership.  If interested in the ancient tradition of contemplative prayer, community and service, come and have your questions answered. For moreinformation, contact Regional Director Herman Briones, (818) 521-6564.

    Stations of the Cross, 2 p.m., Calvary Cemetery, 4201 Whittier Blvd., East Los Angeles. Every Sunday through March 22. (323) 261-3106.

    “Who is this Jesus you see?,” 2-4 p.m., Master Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, 700 N Sunnyside Ave., Sierra Madre. Presented by Dr. Michael Downey. Freewill donation. 

    Families to the Max: Be a Catholic Family, 2-5:30 p.m., Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata, 531 East Merced Avenue, West Covina. For more information, contact Ann O’Donnell, (626) 917-0040.

    Rosary and Mass for Life, Rosary: 4:30 p.m., Mass: 5 p.m., St. Cornelius Church, 5500 E Wardlow Rd., Long Beach. Contact Sylvia Aimerito (562) 429-1965.

The Tidings - Home Delivery 300x100

Get our news by email

Office for Vocation
Bob Smith BMW 300x250
Bob Smith Toyota 300x250
Bob Smith Mini 300x250