Marriage is one of society’s foremost incubators of virtue — those attitudes and habits of behavior that promote health and well-being in the individual and all those with whom he or she interacts. Despite all the derogatory jokes about the oppressive, irksome nature of marriage, the data clearly show that married couples are healthier, happier, and live longer than those who remain unmarried. Social scientists try to parse out whether this association is the result of happy, healthy, positive people tending to marry with higher frequency or whether being married tends to make people happier, healthier, and more positive in their outlook on life.
Logic and common sense, however, face no such obstacle. To take just one instance, ordinary folks look at the following set of facts and draw the obvious conclusion that marriage does make a difference. In 1976, only 35 percent of all 20- to 34-year-old males had never married; these never-married males accounted for only 31 percent of the male labor force but half of the unemployed males of that age group. Now, a little over 30 years later, 61 percent of 20- to 34-year-old males have never married; they comprise only 57 percent of the males of that age in the labor force but they account for nearly three quarters (74 percent) of all of the unemployed males 20 to 34 years of age. Unlike social science researchers, people in business concerned with holding down expenses recognize which workers have not learned the habits that make them reliable workers. And so, when cut backs have to be made in their work force, they have no difficulty determining which are the least valuable workers and thus the ones they are going to lay off first.
Two people who set out on the path to build a great marriage will almost certainly produce a bumper crop of virtue; moreover, the virtues that marriage cultivates will be in evidence not only in the quality of their personal, private relationships but also in the public aspects of their lives in the broader community. This accounts for why married couples are the backbone of communities.
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