Tomorrow marks the start of National Marriage Week, which runs through Valentine’s Day. For Salon Talks, I sat down with Sheila Weber, executive director of National Marriage Week USA. We discussed the lack of progress in the "War on Poverty," which is arguably due to the rise of unmarried births.
“Marriage lifts women and children out of poverty,” Weber said. “It's the best scenario for raising children, and we want to get the word out to people so they understand why marriage can be so valuable for them and it’s valuable to the nation also.”
I asked whether such emphasis on marriage put undue pressure on women to fit into an old-fashioned or patriarchal paradigm. Still, I agree with her that marriage is more about strengthening the fundamental unit of society rather than holding anyone down.
“It’s not about forcing anybody to do anything, it’s about the fact that we have seen this huge decline, in the actual practice of marriage, but we’re mostly concerned that children have the greatest advantages,” Weber said. “And so it’s important to know that children raised without both their mother and their father have more trouble with the law, more teen pregnancy, more addiction, they don't perform as well in school. So this is really about outcomes for children.”
Weber pointed out that 50 percent of U.S. babies born today to women under the age of 30 are born outside of marriage. This trend has been discussed at length by Brookings scholar Isabel Sawhill, a Bill Clinton appointee and cofounder of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in her book, Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage.
“So half of all of our babies are born outside of that relationship of marriage whereas in 1960, about 3 percent of the U.S. babies were born outside of marriage,” Weber said. “Being pro-marriage should be something that both the Left and the Right can agree on. That marriage is good for America, and it’s good for children. My feeling is that people on both sides of the political spectrum can agree on this, and in fact the research institutions are showing that.”