That’s a good thing, too. Now why, besides the fact that I’m the director of the National Marriage Project, would I say that it’s a good thing that reports of marriage’s death may be exaggerated?Share
First, and foremost, marriage is about providing the best environment for our children. Virtually every week, I run across another study showing this. But what is striking about some of the new research is that it suggests boys benefit in particular from being raised in an intact, married home. For instance, in the last week I read fascinating new studies from Harvard economist Raj Chetty and from Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan and their colleagues. These new studies indicate that family structure has especially powerful effects on boys. The new study from Chetty and his colleagues found that areas “with high crime rates and a large fraction of single parents generate particularly negative outcomes for boys relative to girls” when it comes to predicting their future income.
In a new study looking at the interaction between family structure, genes, and child outcomes, McLanahan and her colleagues found not only that boys showed “stronger and more consistent responses to father exits” than girls, but also that boys with genes that were “more ‘sensitive’ to their environments responded more negatively to the exit of a father from the household and more positively to the entrance of a biological father into the household,” than boys with a different genetic makeup. In other words, here we have more evidence that having a biological father in the home matters—especially for boys, and even more so for boys who are genetically predisposed to be vulnerable—when it comes to reducing antisocial behavior.
So, if we’re concerned about bridging the opportunity gap in America, and ensuring that all of our kids thrive, especially our most vulnerable boys, we’ve got to be concerned about the strength of marriage and the family for individual families and for entire communities.
But marriage matters for men and women also. The social science suggests that marriage makes men work harder, smarter, and more successfully. For instance, Robert Lerman and I have found that married men work about 400 more hours, and earn about $16,000 more, each year, than their single peers with similar backgrounds. Women also benefit financially from marriage. They do not enjoy a marriage premium for their own personal income, but they do enjoy a major family income premium. They’re also a lot more likely to be in good shape financially when they approach their Golden Years if they have been stably married, compared to their peers who were not stably married. (Read more.)