chapter  10
32 Pages

Then Comes Marriage? Religion, Race, and Marriage in Urban America

ByW. Bradford Wilcox

In recent years, the institution of marriage has come to occupy a central but contested place in American public life. Family scholars and newly-formed academic organizations, from the National Marriage Project to the Council on Contemporary Families, have taken up opposing sides on a host of marriage-related issues—from the relative importance of marital stability for child well-being to the value of civic and cultural efforts to promote higher levels of marital stability ( Brooks 2002 ; Coltrane 2001; Coontz and Folbre 2002; Wilcox 2002a). Marriage-related issues have become particularly salient in light of the Bush Administration’s plan to spend at least $300 million in federal welfare funds to promote marriage in low-income communities. This plan has engendered a great deal of controversy, and strong reactions from the right and the left. Arguing that the “collapse of marriage is the principal course of child poverty,” Robert Rector (2001:62-63), a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is an avid supporter of government efforts on behalf of marriage: “With the allocation of such funds to the restoration of marriage, society will, for the first time, begin to directly address the root cause of child poverty, welfare dependence, and underclass pathologies within the nation.” Kim Gandy (2002), president of the National Organization of Women, argues that many low-income women do not have access to high-quality, marriageable men and, 172consequently, that the government should not waste money on marriage promotion efforts when poor families, especially single mothers, face so many material challenges: “Until education, childcare, health care, transportation and decent housing are available to all families, not a single dime should be diverted from these critical needs [to marriage policies].”