One Nation, Divided: Culture, Civic Institutions, and the Marriage Divide


Wilcox, W. Bradford; Wolfinger, Nicholas H.; & Stokes, Charles E. (2015). One Nation, Divided: Culture, Civic Institutions, and the Marriage Divide.


Since the 1960s, the United States has witnessed a dramatic retreat from marriage, marked by divorce, cohabitation, single parenthood, and lower overall marriage rates. Marriage is now less likely to anchor adults’ lives or provide a stable framework for childrearing, especially among poor and working-class Americans. Much research on the retreat from marriage has focused on its economic foundations. Bradford Wilcox, Nicholas Wolfinger, and Charles Stokes take a different tack, exploring cultural factors that may have contributed to the retreat from marriage and the growing class divide in marriage. These include growing individualism and the waning of a family-oriented ethos, the rise of a “capstone” model of marriage, and the decline of civil society. These cultural and civic trends have been especially consequential for poorer American families. Yet if we take into account cultural factors like adolescent attitudes toward single parenthood and the structure of the family in which they grew up, the authors find, the class divide in nonmarital childbearing among U.S. young women is reduced by about one-fifth. For example, compared to their peers from less-educated homes, adolescent girls with college-educated parents are more likely to hold marriage-friendly attitudes and to be raised in an intact, married home, factors that reduce their risk of having a child outside of marriage. Wilcox, Wolfinger, and Stokes conclude by outlining public policy changes and civic and cultural reforms that might strengthen family life and marriage across the country, especially among poor and working-class families.



Marriage Divorce Cohabitation Single Parent

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Marriage and Child Wellbeing Revisited


Wilcox, W. Bradford
Wolfinger, Nicholas H.
Stokes, Charles E.

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