The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially

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9780385500852: The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially

A groundbreaking look at the most basic and universal of all human institutions, this authoritative and provocative book reveals the benefits-emotional, physical, economic, and sexual-that marriage brings to individuals and society as a whole.

Everyone knows that we are experiencing an epidemic of divorce; rates of single-parenthood and unmarried cohabitation are skyrocketing while marriage rates continue to decline. Yet 93% of Americans still say they hope to form a lasting and happy union with one person, though fewer now believe that this is possible.

Numerous books have been written about the impact of divorce on men, women, children, and society at large. But no one has yet studied the long-term benefits of being and staying married. The Case for Marriage is a critically important intervention in the national debate about the future of the family. Based on the authoritative research of family sociologist Linda Waite and other scholars, the book's findings dramatically contradict the anti-marriage myths that have become the common sense of most Americans.  Today a broad consensus holds that marriage is a bad deal for women, that divorce is better for children when parents are unhappy, and that marriage is essentially a private choice, not a public institution. Waite and Gallagher flatly contradict these assumptions, arguing instead that by a broad range of indices, being married is actually better for you physically, materially, and spiritually than being single or divorced. Married people live longer, have better health, earn more money and accumulate more wealth, feel more fulfilled in their lives, enjoy more satisfying sexual relationships, and have happier and more successful children than those who remain single, cohabit, or get divorced. Statistics show, for example, that violence is less prevalent in married households and that divorce reduces male life expectancy on the order of a pack-a-day cigarette habit.

While their book is not primarily a work of moral exhortation, the authors argue that in order for marriage to do its beneficial work it must be treated as a socially preferred option, not merely one choice among others that are equally valid. Combining clearheaded analysis, penetrating cultural criticism, and practical advice for strengthening the institution of marriage, the authors provide clear, essential guidelines for reestablishing marriage as the foundation for a healthy and happy society.

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Review:

The wages of the married are high, commitment is good for the libido, and, despite 30 years of arguments to the contrary, happiness may just depend on reciting the wedding vow, according to Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher. After sifting through the evidence and conducting their own studies, the authors conclude that marriage is beneficial and transformational, and that neither cohabitation nor swinging singledom are all they're cracked up to be. In fact, it turns out that marriage is a public heath issue: being single can take almost 10 years off a man's life, while wifely nagging really is good for his health. Getting and keeping a wife can also increase a man's income as much as an education. Waite and Gallagher debunk a number of myths about marriage, including the one that says men get a better deal. Acknowledging that there may have been some truth to this in the past, better equity in modern marriages means that women make out just as well as men, though in different ways. Divorce--not marriage--is especially bad for women's health; parenting young children--not marriage--is the usual source of depression seen in mothers; and battering is significantly more common in cohabitating couples.

So, what does threaten marriage? For one, the insecurity engendered by the cultural acceptance of divorce. Couples are now less willing to invest fully in each other, the authors write, while "commitment produces contentment; uncertainty creates agony." Cultural indifference towards marriage is the other big downer. Because marriage is a public commitment, it can "work its miracles only if it is supported by the whole society." Not surprisingly, divorce gets a very bad rap as Waite and Gallagher pull out the heavyweight facts, particularly when it comes to its effect on children. The good news, though, is that marriage is resilient--five years down the road most couples who considered but resisted divorce found that they were happy again. Since Americans are still the marrying kind despite the cynicism, fear, and laissez-faire attitudes, The Case for Marriage makes a reassuring and compelling case for keeping on keeping on. --Lesley Reed

From the Back Cover:

Advance Praise for The Case for Marriage:

"In this book Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite make a compelling defense of a sacred union. The Case for Marriage is well written and well argued, empirically rigorous and learned, practical and commonsensical. It is a very valuable contribution to the debate about marriage in modern American society."
-William J. Bennett, author of The Book of Virtues

"Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher have written a truly revolutionary book. Amassing powerful resources of data and theory, they attack the current anti-marriage conventional wisdom and devastate it. Married people are healthier, happier, more productive, and enjoy better sex. On reflection one wonders how anyone could have possibly thought otherwise. Future discussion of marriage and family will not be able to ignore this work, no matter how much the anti-marriage ideologues would like to."
-Reverend Andrew M. Greeley, priest, sociologist, and bestselling author

"This is an important book that makes the central arguments for marriage. In this cynical, high-divorce culture, this book is a MUST read for every citizen. We need to know the facts about what marriage does accomplish, and here, finally, are the facts, in understandable terms."
-John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and Why Marriages Succeed or Fail

"Is marriage just another lifestyle choice? If you think so, read this book. You will be surprised at how much harm has been done by the popular culture's seemingly benign and well-meaning efforts to characterize all family forms as equally valid. It is time to start talking about the 'M' word and this book should spark the conversation."
-Isabel V. Sawhill, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute

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