Looking for Marriage in Middle America

03.27.2013, 11:20 AM

The new issue of the Institute for American Values’ quarterly newsletter, Propositions, is now out. This latest issue tells the story of Stephanie and Seth, one of the cohabiting couples with children that Amber and I interviewed for our Love and Marriage in Middle America project. As you’ll see, Stephanie and Seth’s story reflects the quandary that many young working class couples find themseves in: sharing a family and at least a remnant of love, but lacking the confidence and means to establish their family and love upon marriage. Read on here.


6 Responses to “Looking for Marriage in Middle America”

  1. Mont D. Law says:

    Can you fix the link please.

  2. David Lapp says:

    Link is fixed. Thanks for calling my attention to that, Mont D Law.

  3. Diane M says:

    What I’m getting from this story isn’t really a big answer to the problem. It seems that Stephanie is ready for marriage, but her boyfriend doesn’t want to marry her. He feels like he fell into a relationship and wonders about the way they met (by having sex at a wild party). He’s staying because they have a kid, or maybe just because it’s easier.

    They would definitely have been better off if they had gotten to know each other more slowly and not had a kid. But now what?

  4. Diane M says:

    Anyhow, I wanted to address a question to the Lapps.

    What role does money play in all this?

    I’m not thinking about poverty which obviously stinks and makes life harder. I’m thinking about how does money keep the couple together or even bring them together? (One of the panelists at the KnotYet conference talked about this possibility.)

    I read something by WBW’s that led me to this paper on the relationship between how a couple shares money and the likelihood that they will break up or divorce*:


    What struck me was that “women in cohabiting couples earned 31% of household income, compared to 27% for married women.”

    In other words, the men were still bringing in most of the money.

    Unmarried women are single, but they are not independent.

    And then, the married couples were much more likely to pool their resources.

    Researchers in the past have looked at how money affects power in a relationship. I would guess that the women you are studying have much less power than the men. The men have more money, the women really need the money, and the women have no access to the money or control over how it is spent.

    So is this how it works in the couples you are studying?

    Do the women need the men financially? How does it affect their relationships?

    How does this piece fit into the puzzle?

    *Couples that pool their money are more likely to stay together.

  5. Diane M says:

    The paper I link to above is by Catherine Kenney and Ryan Bogle of Bowling Green State University.

  6. Diane M says:

    Another thought – with marriage, we know that re-marriages are less likely to last than first marriages and that having children makes re-marriages less likely to last.

    So, when you are looking at co-habiting couples, how much of a strain is it to add having a child already with a different person?

    It is worrisome because with so many women having children with multiple fathers (and men having children with multiple mothers), it may mean that family stability is nearly impossible, married or not.