Brad Wilcox is Professor of Sociology and Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. He’s also a fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and the author of the new book Get Married: Why Americans Should Defy the Elites, Forge Strong Families and Save Civilization.

Why Get Married?

Dr. Wilcox is one of the world’s leading sociologists. Drawing from decades of rigorous academic study, he is informing millions about the rich benefits that marriage provides to husbands and wives, their children, and society at large.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Citizen, Dr. Wilcox shared from his experience interacting with young people at the University of Virginia. “I’m a lot more worried today about young adult’s marriage prospects,” he said, “because what we’re seeing across the developed world is that marriage rates and fertility rates are falling.”

“I talk about the closing of the American heart,” he added, “because young people are having more difficult dating, marrying, and finding someone who’s worthy of marriage.”

Wilcox shared that this concern is what prompted him to write Get Married.

I wrote this book to be an encouragement to young adults, to be a lot more deliberate about valuing marriage and then taking steps to increase their odds of finding someone who would be a good spouse.

The Marriage Decline

As Dr. Wilcox noted, our society has witnessed a dramatic decline in marriage rates. According to the Pew Research Center, 25% of 40-year-olds in the United States today have never been married. This is compared to 20% in 2010 and just 6% in 1980.

But according to Dr. Wilcox, even Pew’s numbers are too rosy.

“My colleague Lyman Stone has projected that about 1 in 3 young adults today will not marry by age 40,” Wilcox told us, “And probably few will marry beyond that stage. So, it’s a large share of young adults today.”

Why is this? Why are such a large percentage of young people failing to marry?

“In part, it’s because our culture has turned in a more individualistic direction,” Dr. Wilcox said. “Young adults also often prioritize education and work over love and marriage.”

“Additionally, there’s a lot of young adults who are struggling,” he added. “They’re not stably employed and there may be drug issues in play. They’re not particularly appealing or attractive as candidates for marriage.”

Indeed, social surveys support Wilcox’s claim.

According to a 2023 survey by Pew Research Center, a vast majority of Americans say having a job or career they enjoy (71%) and having close friends (61%) is more important to them for a fulfilling life than having children (26%) and being married (23%).

“And 42% and 44%, respectively, say having children or being married is not too or not at all important,” Pew found.

“A lot of these younger men, the male malaise, there’s a lot of time spent gaming and not really engaging the world fully beyond their screens,” Dr. Wilcox shared, adding,

And because religion tends to reinforce the value of marriage, the secularization of young adulthood means that fewer young adults are getting the message that they should be focused on finding a spouse.

Hope for Marriage

Though our nation’s decline in marriage and fertility is dire – it’s not inevitable nor hopeless. Dr. Wilcox encourages young adults that a happy and healthy marriage is still possible and meeting that possible spouse is more likely the more we are socially engaged in our communities.

“I encourage young adults to be intentional about investing in their churches and volunteering, or, for example, go to that office Christmas party even if you’re tempted just to stay at home,” he said. “Put yourself out there, introduce yourself, make the rounds. Be more intentional about meeting people and engaging in the social life of your community.”

For young adults, he also recommended communicating to older people in your social network that you’re interested in marriage.

We need more matchmaking in a world that’s become a lot more implicitly and explicitly hostile to young adults getting married.

You can purchase a copy of Get Married: Why Americans Should Defy the Elites, Forge Strong Families and Save Civilization.

Dr. Wilcox recently interviewed with Jim Daly in early March for his ReFOCUS podcast to air in the coming months.

Focus on the Family is presenting upcoming two-day Resist the Drift Marriage ConferencesAttending couples will receive Bible-based concepts and tools from our trained marriage professionals on how to reconnect and strengthen their marriages. You can learn more about the upcoming conferences.

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