Matrimonial Inequality


David Blankenhorn, in a conversation with Jonathan Rauch, worries about the marriage class divide:

[W]hile marriage equality is winning victories and gaining converts (like me), marriage overall in the United States is fracturing along class lines. Among the 30 percent or so of upscale Americans with four-year college degrees, marriage trends are looking pretty good! (If this group were the entire nation, I’d be as encouraged as I was in the late 1990s.) But among the 60 percent or so of Americans who have high school degrees but not four-year college degrees — the nation’s broad lower middle class and working class — marriage is disappearing, right before our eyes. More and more unwed child bearing, one-parent homes, serial love relationships, chaotic home lives for children, frustrated hopes, bruised lives — the whole sad shebang. And very few people in high places seem to give a damn about it, or even to have noticed.

Rauch adds:

Yes, class bifurcation is the marriage problem of our time. Family instability among the less-educated and rising inequality are two sides of the same coin, each perniciously feeding the other. Yes, it’s tough to do anything about. But yes, I have hope, because we’ve arrived at a moment when, as a society, we can finally take off the culture-war blinders and see the real problem, which is the sine qua non for doing anything about it.

For many years, liberals were loath to talk about marriage and family values because both were code for “beat up on homosexuals.” At the same time, conservatives were loath to talk about inequality and class because both were code for “beat up on free markets.” But the era of gay marriage raises the prospect of a pro-marriage agenda which liberals can embrace as not even slightly anti-gay. And the country’s rapid division into marital and educational haves and have-nots makes inequality a problem that family-values conservatives can’t ignore.

(Chart from (pdf) Pew)