- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Young men may be delaying marriage, but most are “the marrying kind,” a research group says in its annual June report, released yesterday.

Only about one-fifth of 441 young single men surveyed for the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University said that marriage wasn’t for them.

The rest said they could see themselves married someday, and many said they would “marry tomorrow, if the right person came along.”

This suggests that, contrary to the perception that young men are marriage phobic, “most men are ‘the marrying kind,’” said David Popenoe, co-director of the project with Barbara Dafoe Whitehead.

In fact, they said, “the typical 30-something guy is a married guy.”

The new study, “The Marrying Kind: Which Men Marry and Why,” is featured in the marriage project’s annual report, “The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America 2004.”

The report shows that U.S. marriage rates are continuing to decline.

Last year, around 57 percent of men 15 and older and 54 percent of women 15 and older were married. Each figure is almost a percentage point lower than in 2000.

In comparison, in 1960 more than 69 percent of men and almost 66 percent of women in the same categories were married.

The median age of marriage for men also has risen, from 23 in 1970 to almost 27.

The new report finds that marriage, after a long hiatus, has been added to the public agenda, with pro-marriage funding proposals, tax breaks for married couples and congressional hearings on marriage.

But questions remain about what distinguishes “marrying” men from those who don’t plan on trying it, said Mr. Popenoe and Mrs. Whitehead.

In the National Marriage Project telephone survey commissioned this year, 1,010 men ages 25 to 34 were asked for their views on marriage. Fifty-six percent of the men were married, 36 percent had never married and 8 percent were divorced, separated or widowed.

The survey showed that men who grew up in married homes, with involved fathers and regular religious attendance, were more likely to be in the “married” category than “single” category.

Conversely, men who grew up in nontraditional, nonreligious homes were more likely to still be single and have ambivalent views of marriage.

This doesn’t mean being raised in a single-parent home rules out marriage, Mr. Popenoe said. “There are millions of happily married people” who come from divorced homes.

But men who come from divorced or single-parent homes should “be a little more careful” in choosing a mate, he said. “Your divorce risk goes up [if you come from a nontraditional home], and it goes up especially high if you marry someone who also comes from a nonintact or divorced family.”

Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, said the study’s findings were not surprising.

“In many ways, it’s difficult to be what you don’t see,” he said.

Growing up in a married family is especially powerful for men because it can link marriage and fatherhood in their minds, Mr. Warren added. “When you decide you want to be a father, you decide also that you want to be married.”

Other survey findings:

• Of unmarried men, 22 percent said marriage wasn’t “personally” for them.

• Of married men, 94 percent said they were happier now than when they were single. Most said marriage improved their lives sexually and financially.

• Seventy-five percent of married men said that, in choosing a wife, they “specifically looked for someone who would be a good mother.”

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