Marriage As A Social Justice Issue

We know that, on average, kids are disadvantaged socially, emotionally, economically and educationally, from the absence of their married biological mom and dad. We also know – from probably the most respected contemporary author working in this field today, Princeton’s Sara McLanahan – that inequalities of advantage are “reproduced” intergenerationally.

In other words, the inequalities we see today between socio-economic classes, and between races, are transmitted and solidified, in large part, via the family structures in which kids are raised.

If people care about this, they will have to care enough to step on a few toes in order to improve the situation. They will have to risk hurting the feelings of people who insist that every statement about the best environment for children is simultaneously a nasty judgment of parents who haven’t provided it.

Likely, every reader of this blog has family and/or friends living in less-than-ideal family circumstances. We love them, even if we disagree.

As religious women, we also genuinely hope (and work for!) better family lives for the chronically disadvantaged.

Everyone knows that part of the problems of later marriage and nonmarriage today – which is closely related to skyrocketing nonmarital sexual practices and nonmarital births – is the lack of adequate-paying jobs, especially for men. The literature is clear on this. Furthermore, there is no answer to this problem on the immediate horizon. It’s likely, most of us don’t know the best way to rise wages, and create better jobs. Though we are happy that some economists are working hard on this!

We CAN focus on what we can influence- sex in the context of marriage, for the stability and future economic success of children.

Doesn’t it make sense to do what we can do to avoid further social and economic distance between wealthy and poor, black and white? To do what we can in our own families? In our churches?  And in any other groups or communities to which we belong?

To remind especially younger people that one of the greatest gifts they can give to their children and their society…to the future … is a healthy marriage and stable family life.  

This not only promotes justice on an individual or family scale. It’s also social justice. And it begins where family structure gets shaped: at conception.

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