Measuring Our Culture of Death

A Sobering Look at the Family in America

One side is celebrating, the other rending their garments, but both sides are wondering if the outcome of the November presidential election might signal a springtime for traditional moral values in America.  Rappers P. Diddy and Eminem doubtless turned more voters away from Kerry than they attracted, and, in all states where voters were asked to define marriage, the majority agreed on a union of one man and one woman.  Nonetheless, a Middle American reaction to the prospect of legal approval of sodomy, while encouraging, is hardly much of a barometer by which to measure the nation’s cultural and social health.  A better sense of just how “traditional” American values are can be gleaned from the latest Census Bureau data on the family.  It might be time to sober up.

The family is the origin of civilized society, and every family begins with a marriage.  How is marriage faring?  Consider divorce rates over the last half-century.  In 1950, there were 2.6 divorces per 1,000 population.  The figure peaked in 1981 with 5.3 per 1,000 and has declined somewhat to 4.0 per 1,000 population in 2001.  Is this good news?  Not if we consider the data alongside the marriage rate.  In 1950, there were 11.1 marriages per 1,000 population, in 1981, 10.6; and in 2001, only 8.4.  Thus, the rate of divorce was 23 percent of that of marriage in 1950; it increased to 50 percent...

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