Friday, July 20, 2007

Marriage: A "Wealth-Generating Institution?"

By Guest Blogger Shahtaj Siddiqui

A fairly recent article from The Economist presents a fascinating read that strips away the emotional and spiritual connotations of marriage and discusses simple statistics about marriage trends in America. For example, the author points out that individuals in strong marriages fare economically better than those in weaker marriages, and that offspring of two-parent marriages are smarter, better situated economically, and more likely stay in the upper economic brackets of society.

The article is extremely well-researched, highlighting decade-long trends, and provides facts to a statistical significance that suggest traditional marriage is better for society.

The author writes:

“Most children in single-parent homes ‘grow up without serious problems,’ writes Mary Parke of the Centre for Law and Social Policy, a think-tank in Washington, DC. But they are more than five times as likely to be poor as those who live with two biological parents (26% against 5%). Children who do not live with both biological parents are also roughly twice as likely to drop out of high school and to have behavioural or psychological problems. Even after controlling for race, family background and IQ, children of single mothers do worse in school than children of married parents, says Ms Hymowitz."

The article also provides statistical proof that couples living together before marriage (and produce children before marriage) tend to later get divorced, leaving children with the disadvantages of single parentage.

“Co-habiting couples have the same number of hands as married couples, so they ought to make equally good parents. Many do, but on average the children of co-habiting couples do worse by nearly every measure. One reason is that such relationships are less stable than marriages. In America, they last about two years on average. About half end in marriage. But those who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce.

“Many people will find this surprising. A survey of teenagers by the University of Michigan found that 64% of boys and 57% of girls agreed that ‘it is usually a good idea for a couple to live together before getting married in order to find out whether they really get along.’ Research suggests otherwise. Two-thirds of American children born to co-habiting parents who later marry will see their parents split up by the time they are ten. Those born within wedlock face only half that risk.”

From an Islamic perspective, one can plainly see the wisdom in practices such as not dating, and choosing a spouse who is better suited for the long-run (economically, socially, mentally, physically, etc.) than falling for the stereotypical “love-at-first-sight.’ I don’t believe that Islamic practices need ever be corroborated by outside sources, but having quick statistics (like the above) that are easy to understand is quite convenient, especially when having to explain, “What? Muslims don’t date?”

Regardless, I in no way wholeheartedly agree with all of the author’s points, but the article, though slightly long, is still well worth the read.

Read on: The Frayed Knot

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