The New York Times has once again published another 'hit piece' on the institution of marriage, alleging that for “the first time more American women are living without a husband than with one”. However, US census data for 2005 shows that the January 16th front-page story in the New York Times is just another disturbing showcase of the Times’ tolerance for “journalistic malpractice”.
“For what experts say is probably the first time,” writes Sam Roberts on the Times front page, “more American women are living without a husband than with one, according to a New York Times analysis of census results.”
“In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000,” writes Roberts. He adds that now married couples make up a minority of all American households and “the trend could ultimately shape social and workplace policies, including the ways government and employers distribute benefits.”
The plain truth is that Roberts’ findings are at variance with US census reports for 2005, which demonstrate a far different picture from the profiles selected by Roberts of single women “delighting in their new found freedom.”
According to the 2005 report “Marital Status of the Population by Sex and Age”, the United States is not yet a culture that has discarded the institution of marriage, where 60.4% of men and 56.9% of women over 18 years old are married.
However, Roberts creates his own analysis by using the Census Bureau’s “Living Arrangements of Persons 15 Years Old and Over by Selected Characteristics”, by including in his 51% figure of women living without a spouse: unmarried teenage and college girls still living with their parents, women whose husbands work out of town, are institutionalized, or are separated from husbands serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Perhaps most disturbing is how blatantly Roberts’ claims are at variance with US census bureau statistics. Among marriageable women over 18 years old, 56.9% of women are married, with 53% having a spouse present, 1.4% with a spouse absent, 9.9% widowed, and 11.5% divorced. Yet, 67.3% of women 30-34, and 70.5% of women 35-39 are married, a far cry from the profiles of women offered by the Times of women finding fulfillment outside marriage.
Dr. Scott Stanley, co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, said that today’s median marrying age for woman is 26, a fact that radically skew marriage statistics when comparing the data to other eras where men and women married at younger ages. Far from women abandoning marriage, he said “the number of people who want to be married and have it work out well is still extraordinarily high.”
I heard the report about the Roberts story on NPR and had no idea of the distortions. They did bring out that part of the story is the disparity in life expectancies between man and women. It's hard to sort out facts with all the different versions flying back and forth.