Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

All the wrong reasons

Family | Divorce rates are dropping, but so is the rate of marriage
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 7/05/19, 04:12 pm

Americans are getting divorced less often than they were 50 years ago, but they are also getting married less and cohabitating more.

In 2017, the divorce rate among married women ages 15 and older dropped to 16.1 divorces per 1,000 married women, down from 16.7 the previous year. That’s significantly lower than the divorce rate’s peak of 22.8 in 1979, according to researchers with the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

While that may look like good news, many of the likely factors in the falling divorce rate are not. In particular, young couples are more likely to live together before getting married than they were in the past, essentially allowing breakups without a formal divorce. Marriage rates also have been declining for years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2000, there were 8.2 new marriages per 1,000 people—that dropped to 6.9 marriages per 1,000 people in 2017. The lack of commitment corresponds with the lowest birthrate in 32 years, well below replacement levels.

Wendy Manning, director of Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Marriage Research, told The Wall Street Journal that while couples might cohabitate for two or three years before splitting up, they treat marriage differently: “There’s a fear of divorce or a specter of divorce looming large in people’s minds. They don’t want to make a mistake. They’re waiting longer to get married to divorce-proof their marriage.”

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, told me that the growth of cohabitation is one of the biggest reasons behind the falling divorce rate, partly because it reduces the total number of marriages and because it removes a large section of unsteady pairings from the data.

“The couples with less stable relationships that might have been more vulnerable to divorce—such as those in lower income classes—are likely to cohabitate instead of marrying,” he said. “So while the rate of divorce per se may be declining, it does not mean the percentage of all relationships that are stable and lifelong is increasing.”

In addition to living together before marrying, couples are also marrying much later in life. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median age of first marriages has been steadily rising since the 1940s. In 1947, the median age for a first marriage among women was 20.5 and 23.7 for men. In 2018, it was 27.8 for women and 29.8 for men.

Sprigg said the rising age for first marriages demonstrates a shift in attitude toward marriage. Instead of a gateway to adulthood, he said many people now see it as a “capstone” to getting an education and a career. And while the cohabitation-education-career-marriage path might result in decreased divorces, it’s not how God designed marriage.

“The ideal outcomes for both individuals and society occur when people abstain from sex, cohabitation, or childbearing until after marriage, and then remain committed to their first spouse for life,” Sprigg said. “Although declining divorce rates are good news, we still have a long way to go to reach that ideal for family formation.”

Associated Press/Photo by David Joles/Star Tribune Associated Press/Photo by David Joles/Star Tribune Dan Collison

Denomination takes a stand

A small Protestant denomination ousted a church in Minneapolis and its pastor for their unbiblical stance on human sexuality. Delegates at the Evangelical Covenant Church’s annual meeting in Omaha, Neb., in late June, after five years of deliberations, voted to defrock Pastor Dan Collison and expel his congregation, First Covenant Church. The church was one of the founding congregations in the 134-year-old denomination and was once one of its largest. A retired pastor, Steve Armfield, also was defrocked for officiating his son’s same-sex wedding in Minneapolis.

The ECC has held that marriage is between one man and one woman as described in the Bible since its founding by Swedish immigrants in 1874. The delegates found that Collison and his congregation’s overt endorsement of the LGBT agenda—including inviting LGBT individuals into leadership roles and supporting same-sex marrige—and their refusal to honor “celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage” to be “out of harmony” with the denomination’s policies.

“I grieve the loss of First Covenant Church of Minneapolis,” ECC President John Wenrich said in a statement. “I hope this historic church someday changes its mind and then returns to our family.”

The congregation plans continue to operate with Collison as its pastor outside of the denomination. The ECC said the church could keep its building and property. —Loren Skinker

Associated Press/Photo by Samantha Maldonado Associated Press/Photo by Samantha Maldonado A cashier displays a packet of tobacco-flavored Juul pods at a store in San Francisco last month.

Banned in San Francisco

San Francisco has become the first city in the United States to ban e-cigarettes. The ordinance, announced Tuesday, strikes a critical blow to San Francisco–based vaping manufacturer Juul Labs, which claims the curbing of e-cigs will result in a black market. Retailers in the city have six months to empty their shelves of the product. —L.S.

Secondhand drinking

Nearly 20 percent of adults in the United States have been negatively affected by another person’s drinking. A study published Sunday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that roughly 53 million adults were harmed by secondhand drinking in 2015. The effects varied from property damage to physical injury. —L.S.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha is a freelancer for WORLD Digital. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, and she holds a bechelor degree in English from Hillsdale College and a multiple subject teaching credential from California State University. Samantha resides in Chico, Calif., with her husband and their two sons.

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    Posted: Sat, 07/06/2019 10:29 pm

    Secondhand Drinking?

    WOW! That's a new one to me.

    Posted: Sat, 07/06/2019 10:32 pm

    Re: Vaping

    And they still allow cigarettes? And Alcohol? And marijuana? 

    Someday someone will say they should legitimize vaping and put a warning on it, so they can collect taxes on it.


    Posted: Sat, 07/06/2019 10:36 pm

    I noticed that most of the new people buying houses in our neighborhood are not married but have a partner.