-by Pastor Mike Middaugh
In Matthew 5, which is Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, we see the standard of living for God’s people. Included, is an overview of God’s view of love and lust, marriage and divorce. The entire Sermon on the Mount points to Jesus as the only way we can hope live up to these standards, and be forgiven when we don’t. It is clear that the gospel has a huge impact on every part of Christian life, and marriage and sex are no exception.
In considering this topic I thought it would be good to see again a few statistics that give an overview of the state of our marriages unions in America. On seeing the numbers I think it is safe to say we have a paradoxical if not conflicted view of marriage today. On the one hand, we spend more time and money than ever on the wedding ceremony itself (a phenomenon boosted by the popularity of wedding related TV shows, magazines and websites), and yet as a whole, the marriage rate is lower than it has been in at least 100 years.
- The marriage rate in the U.S. is currently 31.01, the lowest it’s been in over a century, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Center at Bowling Green State University. That equals roughly 31 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women. In 1920, the marriage rate reached its peak at 92.3. Since 1970, the marriage rate has declined by almost 60 percent. To put this in real numbers, the total marriages fell from 2.45 million in 1990 to 2.11 million in 2010.
- The median ages of people when they first marry (as of 2010) was 28.9 for men and 2010 for 26.9 women. I believe there is an upside to this trend because statistics also show that those who marry at a very young age are more likely to divorce. However, this older average age is also caused by the number of people choosing other forms of relationships (cohabiting or dating) instead than choosing to get married.
- Speaking of cohabitation, now, for the first time, most people live together before they marry. Estimates suggest that around 25% of individuals ages 25-39 are currently cohabiting. Another 25% say they have cohabited in the past. An even higher percentage of divorced persons who subsequently remarry live together first. And a growing number of persons, both young and old, are living together with no plans to marry eventually.
- The average age for childbearing is now younger than the average age for marriage. By age 25, 44 percent of women have had a baby, while only 38 percent have married. Today, only 23 percent of all unmarried births are to teenagers. Sixty percent are to women in their twenties.
- The way we think about marriage has shifted also shifted. For it time it was probably the cornerstone of adult life, now many might view it as the capstone. This means that marriage is no longer the foundation on which young adults build their prospects for future prosperity and happiness, but it now comes only after they have moved toward financial and psychological independence.
- Couples spend more on the actual wedding ceremony today than ever before. The average amount spent on a wedding today is $25,656 not including the honeymoon.
- The national divorce rate is almost 50 percent of all marriages. But for many people, the actual chances of divorce are far below 50/50. The “close to 50 percent” divorce rate refers to the percentage of marriages entered into during a particular year that are projected to end in divorce or separation before one spouse dies. Such projections assume that the divorce and death rates occurring that year will continue indefinitely into the future—an assumption that is useful more as an indicator of the instability of marriages in the recent past than as a predictor of future events.
- A case in point for #7 above is that a person who has been to college, has an annual income over $50,000, is religious, comes from from an intact family, and marries after age 25 without having a baby first, has a very low chance of divorce. Here are some percentage-point decreases in the risk of divorce or separation during the first ten years of marriage, according to various personal and social factors: Annual income over $50,000 (vs. under $25,000) (-30); Having a baby seven months or more after marriage (vs. before marriage) (-24); Marrying over 25 years of age (vs. under 18) (-24); Family of origin intact (vs. divorced parents) (-14); Religious affiliation (vs. none) (-14); College (vs. high school dropout) (-25).
- Finally, one of the more surprising findings shows that contrary to what most people might expect, couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages — and more likely to divorce — than couples who do not. Many young people today have seen, or felt, the effects of divorce and want to avoid it in their own lives. As a result they wait longer to get married, date around more, and often cohabit before marriage, but this actually seems to be having a negative rather than positive effect on the strength of our marriages today.