The case for (promoting) marriage: The devil is in the details


Department of Human Ecology (A2700), University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712 (


This article considers the quality of the evidence that marriage confers unique benefits, and that, as such, social policies should be enacted to encourage couples, particularly those with few economic resources, to get married and stay together. Public concern about the future of marriage in the United States, we show, is rooted in demographic changes that reflect not so much a turning away from marriage, but an increasing openness to postponing marriage, living together out of wedlock, or divorcing. We examine why people who are motivated to marry hold back from doing so when they see the warning signs of future problems, and what happens when they marry despite them. We argue that marriages are fashioned in the images of the partners and are shaped by the opportunities and constraints of the ecological settings in which they are situated. As such, the promotion of family health and stability will require an approach that attends to couples' psychological, social, and economic needs.