Waving the banner of science, sociologists Waite (Sociology/Univ. of Chicago) and Gallagher (Enemies of Eros, not reviewed) champion “the most basic and universal of human institutions.”
Although “just 8% [of Americans] consider marriage to be an outdated institution,” the authors contend that our “postmarriage culture” is inexorably eroding the institution by reducing it to a personal lifestyle choice. Spurred by conscience and their responsibility as scientists, Waite and Gallagher marshal countless studies conducted over the past few decades and deploy them to demonstrate the financial, emotional, sexual, and health benefits of the married state. For the health benefits alone, they argue, “a new campaign to reduce marriage failure is as important as the campaign to reduce smoking.” Recently entrenched beliefs (such as the idea that marriage benefits men more than women) are addressed, sometimes convincingly, sometimes not. The authors put forward some highly arresting findings (“children in single-parent families are more likely to become a victim of domestic violence”), but their supporting evidence is often weak, and they move so rapidly from point to point that their assertions seem more controversial than conclusive. They outline a nine-point plan of action, exhorting readers to “change laws to strengthen marriage,” “enlist religious and other community support,” “scrutinize other policies for unintended anti-marriage consequences,” and rethink “extending domestic partnership benefits to all cohabiting couples.”
A bit too passionate to be believed: despite their claims of scientific objectivity, Waite and Gallagher have created a highly polemical work of political advocacy rather than an impartial study.