The National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University has just issued a research report on the rates of “first marriage” across different racial/ethnic groups. Interestingly, the ranking of those rates closely parallels the cross-racial/ethnic ranking of the Index of Family Belonging (the fraction of 15- to 17-year-olds who have grown up in an intact married family, which has not changed measurably in the last 3 years) published by The Marriage and Religion Research Institute.
Remarkably, Asians (whose Index of Family Belonging MARRI shows to be 65 percent) enter marriage at a rate of 6.2 percent (62 per thousand adults) each year. Whites have an Index of 54 percent, while they have a (first) marriage-entry rate of 51 per thousand adults. Hispanics have an Index of Family Belonging of 41 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 40 per thousand native-born Hispanic adults (though the entry into first marriage among immigrant Hispanics is 60 per thousand immigrant adult Hispanics, illustrating that immigrant Hispanics are stronger on marriage and family than acculturated Hispanics). Black Americans have an Index of Family Belonging of 17 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 20 per thousand adult Black Americans.
Overall, the United States presently has an Index of Family Belonging of 46 percent and an entry rate into first marriage of 45 per thousand adult Americans.
Thus, the proportion of children who grow up in an intact married family parallels the rate of entry into first marriage. That the ranking of the cross-racial/ethnic (childhood) family intactness and marriage entry rates resemble one another makes sense. It is interesting that the rate of entry into first marriage is markedly higher amongst immigrant Hispanics than among native-born Hispanics. This pattern of greater marital and family strength repeats itself across a number of measures on Hispanic Americans, indicating that America’s cultural influence is not always a blessing for immigrants, though clearly its material blessings are.
Because the marriage relationship is foundational to the future strength of the child when he or she becomes an adult, these data indicate that the next generation of Asian Americans may be our strongest racial/ethnic group and that they may continue to outpace other racial/ethnic groups. Sadly, it is likely that African American children (and, later, adults) will continue to fall further and further behind those from all other racial/ethnic groups.
Marriage has a massive and permanent effect on children. No other institution has a comparable influence on the life and wellbeing of a child. The implications of the decline of marriage in America have been clear for some time, as a different Bowling Green report illustrates, and this means America may weaken into the future, as well, across myriad critical outcomes that spending alone cannot change. Such compensatory hopes are the basis of the welfare state. But the first human welfare is a married mother and father who stay so to raise their children in strength.