How many marriages do we need to conclude that “marriage is not dead yet”?
I am not kidding about this: I really don’t have half an hour every few days just to debunk whatever Brad Wilcox and his cocktail party blog about. We need more people, and more money, to resist the tide of baloney that the Family Right puts out. To students: I hope some of you will consider a career in family demography and devote some of your time to public work. To those hard-working journalists who are trying to do good reporting among all this noise: I hope you will have the opportunity to develop the skills and sources you need to avoid being misled (and thanks for trying).
Today’s example: one paragraph from Wilcox’s blog yesterday:
But outside of the media glare, there are a number of signs—demographic and cultural—that marriage is not dead yet, and that the nation’s retreat from marriage may have bottomed out. Take the marriage rate, which has fallen more than 50 percent since the 1970s. Since 2009, the marriage rate looks to have stabilized at about 6.8 marriages per 1,000 Americans. And, because the population is growing, the number of Americans actually tying the knot has been rising since 2009, from 2.08 million marriages that year to 2.12 million marriages in 2011, with more marriages forecast for this year.
You have to pay attention to the details to smell the baloney. He is talking about two data points (2010 and 2011) and comparing them with one year that had a big decline in marriage (2009).
The figure Wilcox produces only goes back to 1990. As I showed recently, the decline in marriage accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s — even with the post-recession increase that warms Wilcox’s heart:
This just shows the decade end points. Here are the trends within the 2000s:
Both the number of marriages and the marriage rate dropped precipitously in the worst recession year of 2009 before rebounding. The trendlines from 2000 to 2011 show that we have had one year above the expected level for the decade. Until this rebound creates more marriages than were lost in 2009 — which has not yet happened — we should probably just chalk it up to marriages that were delayed by the recession.
For more on Wilcox’s corruption and distortions, follow the National Marriage Project tag. For a more substantial treatment of marriage trends, please see: