6 Out of 10 Americans Say Marriage Is Not Becoming Obsolete and Other Things the Media Won’t Tell You

BY: - 19 Nov '10 | Home

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by Lamar Tyler

Yesterday the web was on fire after a survey on marriage and family was released. The survey which was conducted by the Pew Research Center and Time Magazine was based on interviews with 2,691 adults done by cellphone or landline during the month of October. An Associated Press article that was picked up nationwide blasted, “4 Out of 10 Americans Say Marriage Is Obsolete!”

Not only am I against the stance that marriage is becoming obsolete, but I believe that it’s more necessary than ever, especially in our minority communities. With the decline of the nuclear family, we’ve also witnessed the decline of our local communities. Boys growing up without fathers in the home are left equating manhood to what they see on BET and MTV. Children growing up without strong, positive examples of healthy relationships in their own homes learn through trial and error if they learn at all. The stance that we’ve maintained since launching BlackandMarriedWithKids.com is that marriage may not be for everyone but that it needs to be an option. With further reckless reporting like we’ve seen over the past 24 hours, that option will dwindle unless we stand up to the attack.

Unlike the majority of the media outlets that ran the AP story, I decided to take a deeper look at the Pew study and even launched our own. Before you jump to the fact that a survey on our site would be flawed I conclude that the Pew Survey is as well. The following passage comes from the actual Pew report:

In an effort to capture the experiences and attitudes of those living in both traditional and less traditional family arrangements, the survey included oversamples of three key groups: (1) adults who are divorced or separated and have at least one child younger than age 18; (2) adults who are living with a partner and have at least one child younger than age 18; (3) adults who have never been married and are not currently living with a partner and have at least one child younger than age 18.

Basically, what this tells us is that they oversampled using divorcees with kids, couples that cohabitate with kids and single parents. Could any these groups have an adverse view on marriage?

What I found after taking a closer look at the numbers was that there were some good things about marriage in that report that didn’t surface in any media reports. I personally believe that this reckless reporting is one of the primary reasons that young people in some of our communities have given up hope when it comes to marriage.

Below are some key points that I pulled from that same Pew Research Center study along with headlines that I’ve created in case mainstream media feels like they’d like to revisit the topic to get the story straight:

NEW HEADLINE: 6 Out of 10 Americans Say Marriage Is Not Becoming Obsolete

WHAT THEY FORGOT TO TELL YOU: The flip side of the number that ran in all of the headlines.

Some people say that the present institution of marriage is becoming obsolete””do you agree or disagree?” some 39% of survey respondents say they agree, while 58% disagree and 4% say they don’t know.

NEW HEADLINE: 70% Optimistic About The Institution of Marriage and the Family

WHAT THEY FORGOT TO TELL YOU: People were more optimistic about the future of marriage than they were about the country’s educational system, economic system or eroding morals and ethics.

-In the midst of all this change, the public maintains a positive outlook about the future of the family. When asked if they feel generally optimistic or pessimistic about the institution of marriage and the family, 67% say they are optimistic, 27% are pessimistic and 6% are unsure.
-Despite these growing uncertainties, Americans are more upbeat about the future of marriage and family (67% say they are optimistic) than about the future of the country’s educational system (50% optimistic), its economic system (46% optimistic) or its morals and ethics (41% optimistic).

NEW HEADLINE: More Couples Think Their Marriages Are Better Than Their Parents

WHAT THEY FORGOT TO TELL YOU: Most married couples of today believe their marriages compare favorably with their parents.

Moreover, marriage may have been more prevalent a generation ago, but most married or cohabiting respondents today believe their own relationship compares favorably with their parents’. Some 51% say they have a closer relationship with their spouse or partner than their parents had with each other, while just 5% characterize their own relationship as less close. The remainder””43%””say there is no difference.

NEW HEADLINE: Americans Think Married Couples Make More Money, Find Happiness Easier and Have Great Sex

WHAT THEY FORGOT TO TELL YOU: Most of those surveyed whether single or married thought marriage made life easier in many instances.

For example, when it comes to being financially secure, 35% of respondents believe this is easier to do as a married person, while 11% say it is easier for a single person and half say it makes no difference. Similar patterns emerge for having a fulfilling sexual life, finding happiness and having social status. The two outliers from this pattern are raising a family (fully 77% say this is easier for a married person) and getting ahead in a career (just 14% say this is easier for a married person, compared with 24% who say it is easier for a single person).

In the end just remember that the media is out to sell papers and not to save families.

Lamar Tyler is co-founder of BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He’s also the filmmaker behind You Saved Me and the upcoming film Men Ain’t Boys which examines manhood in the African American community.

About the author

Lamar Tyler wrote 2229 articles on this blog.

Lamar Tyler is co-creator BlackandMarriedWithKids.com. He also is the co-producer of the films Happily Ever After: A Positive Image of Black Marriage, You Saved Me, Men Ain't Boys and Still Standing.


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30 WordPress comments on “6 Out of 10 Americans Say Marriage Is Not Becoming Obsolete and Other Things the Media Won’t Tell You

  1. Princess Dominique

    I felt the same way Lamar yesterday when I saw a new program say the same thing. I was furious. The weird thing how do you survey 2600 people and draw a conclusion from that. I mean, seriously. They should have surveyed some Black and Married with Kids folks or The Plural Thing folks and they’d have gotten a better outlook than they go.

    For me it doesn’t matter what “other” people think marriage is–I know that it is a covenant and thus will NEVER be obsolete and we will NEVER stop teach people any different.

  2. Lamar

    “For me it doesn’t matter what “other” people think marriage is–I know that it is a covenant and thus will NEVER be obsolete and we will NEVER stop teach people any different. ”

    Now that’s something to live by

  3. Dimples_76

    Amen, brother, Amen. I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw the report. Clearly people have not forgotten that 100% minus 40% equals 60%. Yes, 60 % of the people who were surveyed do not believe the negative hype. I am always in conversations with people about poll results. I ask them if the reps from the Gallup poll or the Pew poll or any AP poll ever contacted them or any one that they knew during these surveys. With a restounding “No”, most people start thinking twice. So the polls dont neccessarily tell a picture of your views or the people around you. And you also have to question their sampling method. This survey did choose a number of divorcees and individuals who were NOT in the bond of marriage. Hhhhmm, is that fair? …….. Another perfect example of this is the costant usage of the “near 10 %” unemployment rate in this country. So, math has it that 90% are employed and part of the ten percent who are not employed are the ones “who are too good to flip a burger”. Very good aticle.

  4. Spenseravery

    ((( THANK YOU )))

    For drilling down to the FACTS!! We are fast becoming a Nation that only regurgitates the “Headline”. Thank You! For taking the time.

    This is what I Love most about your site. +information+

  5. Bryan

    I think you are missing the point. The point is that that number is higher than it has ever been. I agree that the media didn’t show all the facts. They never do. But what this does highlight is a growing shift in mindset over previous years. The media didn’t say that most Americans think marriage is obsolete, just that the number is growing. Now I am not a media apologist, but I am a defender of good research. The reason they oversampled those groups is because they already got a statistically significant sample of the population in general. The oversampling is just so they could parse out the views of key segments in society.

  6. Lamar

    Thanks we appreciate your continued support. Too many people are just taking everything they see for face value. I don’t care it it was in Time magazine, came from the Pew Research Center or came from the White House our community is dying so people better start paying attention.

  7. Bryan

    The fact that people are willing to dismiss this study because of a valid sample size just highlights the fact that we need more black people taking statistics courses and need more black people in the math and science field.

  8. Bryan

    The problem is, this blog post just regurgitated the headlines also. Look at the actual AP article by Hope Yen (this is the article that is getting the most attention). The operative word in the headline is becoming, not that marriage is obsolete. Then the article spews a bunch of the facts that Lamar writes about. The point is the growth of the trend. The article acknowledges that 52% of people are married. I love this site, but they are being just as reactionary as the media they criticize.

  9. Pingback: Reading Between the Lines of Time/Pew Marriage Poll Coverage « Family Scholars

  10. Lisa Maria Carroll

    Lamar, this is great! That story was reckless reporting at its finest. It’s no different than the stories about black women and marriage and black women and herpes. People read them and fell for the okey doke. But how many people actually went back and researched them?

    When we change the messaging, we change the effect it has on us.

  11. Lamar

    That’s exactly correct. The media takes it and runs with it while most people don’t even fully process the full story just the headline and the panic that follows.

    Loving that last line:

    “When we change the messaging, we change the effect it has on us.””

  12. Belinda Luscombe

    And yes, I am biased, since I wrote the article. But believe me, I was aware of the points you raise. And I think we still have to pay attention to the fact that in 1978 28% of people felt that way and how 40% do. Doesn’t make it a good thing or a bad thing. But it is a thing.

  13. matthewdlyons

    Funny. I looked at those reports yesterday much like I do the weather. Much is made when there is a 30% chance of thunderstorms. I always chuckle because that means theres a 70% that it is not going to rain. I dont know if it is as simple as a “glass half full vs. half empty” analogy, but the push to sensationalism was glaringly apparent with the reporting of this study.

    With that said, I think some of the stress placed upon the 40% was because that number represented a significant increase in attitudes about marriage. I think its fair to question the sample audience; however, Im child of divorced parents and my view of marriage was never compromised by the experience. Im sure in your practice, you likely have enough experience with families to say otherwise, but I think its too easy to suggest that kids of divorce – generalized – would wholly skew results to one side, or lack objectivity.

    Interestingly, what I picked up from the reporting on the study, was that peoples ideas of what defines a solid, committed relationship may be evolving. I actually think its a little myopic to make it a black or white/right or wrong proposition — as it relates to marriage. I think part of the problem is this obsession with defining things, particularly for other people. I am a happily married individual, but just as rings dont make you married, neither does a piece of paper filed with the court. Its the love and respect that keeps you together. Dont get me wrong. Im pro marriage (for ALL couples).

    When I think about making my marriage simple, I include staying on my side of the fence. Why complicate my marriage, and spin my wheels, worrying about if the next couple next door took vows? I dont believe it takes anything away from me, my marriage, or marriage in general, to have families with unwed couples and/or parents.

    Im not arguing against your retort to the reporting. Im just sharing my perspective on something perhaps a little bigger that the reporting itself.

  14. Pingback: Marriage Matters Monday: Enjoying the View

  15. Brad

    Thank you so much for this GREAT article showing the very disappointing short comings in this report! I wish I had it in hand the day it came out! I was contacted by a local news agency for a comment on the report and had only an hour to prepare. I did my best to point out the limitations of small sample size, but none of that made the air. Fortunately the report at least expressed that most people still find value in marriage and it is not at all obsolete! I just sent the reporter a message and linked her to your blog, I hope that she follows through with a follow up article! Thank you again for some great investigative reporting!

  16. Desiree

    I like how you flipped the script because the media sure didn’t tell the other side of things. When I saw that poll, it just sorta burdened me because you have to admit, it shows a shift in attitudes and in some ways I just feel like people don’t get it. I mulled over it for days and I finally decided to write and defend marriage & kids: http://www.thelovejourney.com/?p=194
    Its too important for us to be silent. Keep doing what you’re doing.
    -Desiree http://www.thelovejourney.com

  17. RB

    I am going through a divorce and even now still hope to be married again. unfortunately reconciliation is not on the table for us, no matter how much I may want it, but being a strong family unit as a black woman with a small child is the most important thing to me. Its clear I wasn’t interviewed for this survey, and I hope no one has to go through what I am now with divorce.

  18. Pingback: SHOCKER: 6 in 10 Say Marriage is NOT obsolete!

  19. Pingback: SHOCKER: 6 in 10 Say Marriage is NOT obsolete!

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