What are the Effects of Marriage and Religion on African Americans in Urban America?
The last three decades have witnessed a “retreat from marriage” in the United States, marked by high rates of nonmarital births, lower rates of marriage, and divorce. Although a growing body of research on the retreat from marriage has focused on its social and economic causes, little attention has been paid to the role that cultural institutions play in furthering or resisting the retreat from marriage. This paper focuses on the role that religious institutions—and the cultural norms and behaviors they promote—play in resisting this retreat among new parents in urban America. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, we find that urban mothers who attend church regularly are significantly more likely to be married at the time of birth compared to urban mothers who do not attend church frequently, and that urban mothers who have a nonmarital birth are significantly more likely to marry within a year of that birth if they attend church frequently.
These religious effects are mediated in part by the relationship-related beliefs and behaviors promoted by churches. Church-going urban mothers express higher levels of normative commitment to the institution of marriage. They also are more likely to benefit from higher levels of supportive behavior (e.g., affection) from the father of their children and lower levels of conflict with the father over sexual fidelity. Thus, by fostering beliefs and behaviors that support matrimony, religious institutions help urban mothers make the transition to marriage in communities where marriage has become increasingly infrequent.
Recently, there has been a huge decline in marriage in the US marked by high rates of children born out of wedlock, lower rates of marriage, and divorce. There has been emphasis on the role that religious aspects, cultural norms and behaviors they promote this is to understand the effects that religious institutions have on marriage, the beliefs and behaviors that support marriage. The idea is to look into the fact that African American religion is unusually vibrant and the institution of marriage in the African American community is unusually weak. As well as it being a inconsistency because religious practices are generally associated with higher rates of marriage formation and stability (Bumpass 2000; Call and Heaton 1997; Thornton, Axinn, and Hill 1992).
The role played by culture in the retreat from marriage, both in general and with respect to racial disparities, is questioned (Axinn and Thornton 2000; Patterson 1998; Tucker 2000; Wilson 1987). Some scholars contend that ideological support for marriage crosses socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic lines and, consequently, that changes in family-related beliefs cannot account for changes in marriage patterns. It is argued that class, racial, and ethnic differences in marriage are attributable primarily to...