Ah....how refreshing to find some positive news about marriage in the media this week.
First, Newsweek takes a look back at the report it published twenty years ago about the rising number of single women and their odds of getting married. You may have heard the infamous line from this report that compared the odds of a woman marrying after 40 to the odds of being killed in a terrorist strike--an inaccurate statement that was originally written as an internal tongue-in-cheek comment.
In "The Marriage Crunch," the magazine reported on new demographic research predicting that white, college-educated women who failed to marry in their 20s faced abysmal odds of ever tying the knot. According to the research, a woman who remained single at 30 had only a 20 percent chance of ever marrying. By 35, the probability dropped to 5 percent. In the story's most infamous line, NEWSWEEK reported that a 40-year-old single woman was "more likely to be killed by a terrorist" than to ever marry. That comparison wasn't in the study, and even in those pre-9/11 days, it struck many people as an offensive analogy. Nonetheless, it quickly became entrenched in pop culture and is still routinely cited in TV shows and news stories.
...Twenty years later, the situation looks far brighter. Those odds-she'll-marry statistics turned out to be too pessimistic: today it appears that about 90 percent of baby-boomer men and women either have married or will marry, a ratio that's well in line with historical averages. And the days when half of all women would marry by 20, as they did in 1960, only look more anachronistic. At least 14 percent of women born between 1955 and 1964 married after the age of 30. Today the median age for a first marriage—25 for women, 27 for men—is higher than ever before.
Not everyone wants to marry, of course. And we're long past those Jane Austen days when being "marriage-minded" was primarily a female trait; today many men openly hope for a wife just as much as women long for a husband. The good news is that older singles who desire a spouse appear to face far kinder odds nowadays. When the Census last crunched the numbers in 1996, a single woman at 40 had a 40.8 percent chance of eventually marrying. Today those odds are probably even higher—and may be only slightly worse than the probability of correctly choosing "heads" or "tails" in a coin toss.
You can read the rest of the article and the retrospective piece on the 1986 article in "Rethinking the Marriage Crunch."
The second piece of good news was a report I saw in today's Washington Times about trends in fatherhood and marriage as published in a study by the National Center for Health Statistics. "Given the choice, however, tying the knot appeals to American men. Two-thirds said it was better to be married than single," the Washington Times reported.
In offering these articles, I'm not endorsing deliberately-delayed marriage nor out-of-wedlock fatherhood. The theme that emerged from the Newsweek piece is that most wished they could have been married earlier. But for those of us who are still single, these reports show that not all is doom and gloom in the marriage stats after all. But these are just numbers. For those of us who love God, we have a more glorious reason to face our futures with hope, peace and trust.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:38-32)