NEW YORK, July 19, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The definition of marriage has long been considered a religious or legal argument. However, a growing number of economists, journalists, and social researchers are concluding that getting and staying married is a key to economic prosperity and domestic tranquility.

This reality became the subject of a New York Times article entitled “Two Classes, Divided by ‘I Do,’” which spanned nearly 3,900 words.

Citing a host of secular, liberal professors, the article came to the same conclusion as longtime apologists for traditional marriage: it’s not only good for the soul but also for one’s bank account.

Studies say skyrocketing rates of single parenthood account for some of the widening income gap between well-to-do and those who are struggling. Experts estimate new parenting trends account for anywhere from 10 percent (Harvard sociology professor Bruce Western) to 40 percent (Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute) of the differential.

Family marriage and childbirth patterns put families on “different trajectories,” according to Mindy Scott, a demographer with the research center Child Trends. Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist based at Johns Hopkins University, said, “It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged.”

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One reason is that married men who must provide for their family have greater incentive to be conscientious about their vocation.

Married men “enjoy an income premium of about 19 percent in the United States compared to their similarly credentialed peers,” said Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project and professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. They “work about 160 hours more compared to their similarly credentialed peers after they transition into marriage in that first year of married life.”

“Men who get married and stay married tend to be better workers,” he said in a lecture delivered at Acton University, hosted by the Acton Institute in June. “They work harder; they work longer hours; they work more strategically; and as a consequence, they tend to earn more money.”

He added that marriage benefits both partners economically. “Women who get and stay married by the end of their lives have a lot more in the way of assets – whether it’s a home or some kind of retirement account.” 

Parents share other economic incentives, including differentiation of labor, and they “are able to pool their income and benefit from economies of scale, in part,” said Wilcox.

Some marriage supporters believe the free market rests upon the foundation of a stable home.

“The family is absolutely necessary for the market to function,” said Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute, a think tank dedicated to understanding and defending the traditional family in all its aspects.

However, the article noted this foundation is crumbling under the weight of discarded social obligations. Some 41 percent of U.S. births take place out-of-wedlock. However, these are not evenly distributed: 60 percent of women with a high school education or less have illegitimate births.

Out-of-wedlock births among white women with some college education have tripled since 1990.

One-third of women with a high school education or less had children to more than one man by their late 20s. This instability has a deleterious effect on everyone in the household. Scott said, “Having men in the house for a short time with ambiguous parenting roles can be really disruptive for children.”

Yet the survey, conducted by Child Trends, found not a single woman who finished college before giving birth did.

Those in the top one-third of income are more likely to have intact families. According to Western and his Harvard colleague Tracey Shollenberger, 88 percent of children in that bracket grow up with both parents. 

Wilcox noted in a separate Times article that only two percent of children born to white, college-educated women are born out-of-wedlock.

Illegitimacy “varies by education more than by race,” said Scott.

Charles Murray documents the same pattern in his newest book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010

The most important impact of differing marriage trends is not economic but social and spiritual, and it is visited not on the parents but upon the children.

Dr. Morse told LifeSiteNews that parents’ differences allow them to equip their children with a mix of skills and abilities beyond that available to either individual parent. Healthy socialization also increases the child’s opportunity to become a productive citizen.

On the other hand, those raised without family attachments fall victims to pathologies as widely divergent as gang recruitment and institutional autism. http://childsrighttothrive.org/topics/socioemotional-development/what-are-effects-early-severe-deprivation-attachment  

“The substitutes to the family are expensive and ineffective, and taxpayers end up paying the price,” she said during one of her own lectures at Acton University. A 2008 study found family breakdown cost taxpayers $112 billion a year, the equivalent of the GDP of New Zealand.

Statistics, though, cannot measure the human toll.

The Times story frames the statistics around the story of two daycare workers in Ann Arbor, Michigan – one married, the other unmarried.

The unmarried mother, Jessica, got pregnant her first year at William Penn University in Iowa. The New York Times reports, “her boyfriend, an African-American student from Arkansas, said they should start a family,” but they agreed to wait “until they could afford a big reception and a long gown.” Instead, they alternated between living with each set of parents, working on-and-off until their breakup. She was 25 and had three children.

Jessica “has trouble explaining, even to herself, why she stayed so long with a man who she said earned little, berated her often and did no parenting,” the reporter wrote.

Now working in a daycare, she sees her friend’s children “swimming and karate and baseball and Boy Scouts, and it seems like it’s always her or her husband who’s able to make it there,” she said. “That’s something I wish I could do for my kids. But number one, that stuff costs a lot of money and, two, I just don’t have the time.”

She was deprived even of the time to heal after a major surgical procedure. After treating cervical cancer last year, she was told to take six weeks off but went back to work after one week’s rest, because she could not afford to give up the paycheck.

Single mothers “have no back-up,” Morse told LifeSiteNews.

That leads to frayed nerves, guilt-tinged memories – and leaner pocketbooks.

Jessica’s exhaustion rings through the written word. “Two incomes would certainly help with the bills, but it’s parenting, too. I wish I could say, ‘Call your dad.’”