Salvo 10.03.2023 6 minutes

Wife Privilege

Bride putting ring on groom’s finger. Rings exchange. Happy couple celebrating wedding outdoors in summer.

Choose wisely, get married, and stick it out.

Once in a while, New York Times opinion writer Nicholas Kristof commits an act of noticing.

Last week he noticed that kids do better when they’re raised by married parents. Oops!

“We are often reluctant,” Kristof noted, “to acknowledge one of the significant drivers of child poverty—the widespread breakdown of family—for fear that to do so would be patronizing or racist.”

He was responding to a new book by Melissa Kearney called The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind.

From her book blurb: “Eschewing the religious and values-based arguments that have long dominated this conversation, Kearney shows how the greatest impacts of marriage are, in fact, economic: when two adults marry, their economic and household lives improve, offering a host of benefits not only for the married adults but for their children.” 

God forbid you talk about “values” when you extol the virtue of marriage!

But there is one inescapable fact that Kristof and Kearney cannot utter. Marriage is not just more common among the rich—it is much more common among conservatives. 

According to a 2019 study by the Institute for Family Studies:

  • “Sixty-two percent of conservatives are married as compared to 39% of liberals.
  • Eighty percent of conservatives say that strong families require marriage as compared to 33% of liberals.
  • Forty-two percent of conservatives say that U.S. marriages are weaker today than they were a few years ago as compared to 23% of liberals.”

But if you ask rich married liberal couples if they think marriage is better for kids, they would get verrrry uncomfortable. They would fidget and change the subject to climate change and point out the “Trans Rights are Human Rights” bumper sticker on their Range Rover.

As Kristof and Kearney begrudgingly acknowledge, the truth about the benefits of marriage is unutterable. The greatest crime you can commit as a virtue-signaling blue-state white Democrat is to admit that traditional marriage might be a good thing for everyone, especially for the poor and their children. 

Maybe they feel bad because they know that liberal social engineering caused this disaster. It’s a feature, not a bug, of progressive American society. 

Kristof notes that “just as you can’t have a serious conversation about poverty without discussing race, you also can’t engage unless you consider single-parent households. After all, families headed by single mothers are five times as likely to live in poverty as married-couple families. Children in single-mother homes are less likely to graduate from high school or earn a college degree. ‘The data present some uncomfortable realities,’ writes Melissa Kearney.”

The social scientists have finally figured out the sorcery behind “white privilege” and “income inequality” and “class difference.” Unfortunately for them, it’s not racism. It’s not Christian nationalism, whatever the hell that is. (They’ve even put David French on the case!)

It’s the mysterious choice two people make to enter an ancient legal arrangement. Most of us do it for romantic reasons, but that’s just the pheromones talking. It’s an arrangement that confers an immediate economic boost—and frees up all the time the couple used to spend seeking dates, allowing them to focus time and energy on raising children and building wealth.

It’s one of the only levers the shrinking middle class retains to keep themselves from sinking into the Bidenomic mire of poverty. The fervent belief in marriage as the best possible lifestyle for your thirties and beyond is a superpower. America leads the world in births by unmarried women, but you are not likely to hear libs say anything about this sad fact but to praise the fictive “strong single moms” who comprise an increasingly large segment of the Democratic voting base.

Therefore, do your best to pair up. Choose wisely. Try to stick it out. Be cool.

Unmarriageable Millennials

Marriage haters will point to the divorce rates and remind you that 75 percent of divorces are initiated by women. No-fault divorce, child custody courts that railroad fathers, wives who run off to “find themselves”—married people aren’t guaranteed a glide path to happiness. This is undeniably true. 

Sometimes I worry that encouraging anyone to get married in 2023 is actually harmful. What if all the potential future wives or husbands you have to choose from are porn-addicted narcissists, weed addicts, or nonbinary furries unsure what gender they are? Why would I advise someone to marry a woman who thinks children are bad for the environment and would happily abort your own child if you left dishes in the sink? 

Am I saying that ladies should marry the drunken Norwood 6 who hit on you at the office Christmas Party? Do I want men to marry the last chick to leave the Burning Man Orgy Dome before the rising mud overwhelmed the Naugahyde floor mats?

No!  I am saying that if you want children, your mission is to find someone who will be 1) a good partner and 2) a good parent. 

Lucky for you, these two marvelous attributes tend to occur together in the right person!

If you agree with me but haven’t been able to find anyone worth marrying, or willing to marry you, don’t give up. As long as you accept that marriage is not a cure if you’re a hot mess and not a bed of roses if you’re not, you’ll make out okay.

Want some quick tips? Make yourself marriage material. Read my book. And for goodness sakes, don’t ask Taylor Swift for dating advice.

As even Nicholas Kristof acknowledges, getting married is still the best institution we’ve got. Neglect it at your peril.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

Suggested reading

to the newsletter