A recent Harris poll sheds a little sunshine on an otherwise dismal marriage landscape. The idea that half of American marriages are doomed “is one of the most specious pieces of statistical nonsense ever perpetrated in modern times,” asserts pollster Louis Harris.
The survey, released in July, notes that only one out of eight marriages will end in divorce. Further, in any single year, only about 2 percent of American marriages will break up. According to Harris, the American family is surviving.
Harris acknowledged the much-quoted 1981 report by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics that there had been 2.4 million marriages and 1.2 divorces during that year. But, he adds, “a much, much bigger 54 million other marriages just keep flowing along like Old Man River.”
It is helpful to see the state of marriage from this wider, more positive perspective. While concerned church leaders have joined secular observers in painting a gloomy picture of modern marriage, fiftieth anniversaries are not uncommon. Indeed, sound marriages are still the norm in our neighborhoods and churches.
And yet, we cannot ignore one rather disconcerting implication of Harris’s rationale for contending that American marriages are basically sound: the good marriages of yesterday offset today’s trend toward divorce. In other words, we can statistically prove marriage is working because so many of our parents and grandparents have remained married. But if the growing divorce rate among new marriages continues—currently running around a million divorces each year—the next generation will have fewer enduring marriages.
Harris blames recent divorces on the fact that “the burden is on women far more than ...1
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