Marriage has long been a symbol of union – between husband and wife, a compact between the couple and the community concerning support for children, and an institution that, even as it changed or cloaked inconvenient facts about sexuality or paternity, forged shared meanings about family life. Today, however, marriage has increasingly become a symbol of disunion. The disunion involves divorce and the disappearance of permanence as a defining feature of marriage. It extends to a dramatic increase in non-marital births, as marriage has become an optional rather than mandatory aspect of childrearing. And, in the United States today, marriage is increasingly a symbol of what divides us: regionally, economically, racially, politically and ideologically. This chapter first will examine the process of family change and its connections to the changing economy. Second, it will describe the way that family changes play out along regional and class lines. Third, it will consider the relationship between family changes and ideological divisions, describing the differences between strategies that seek to link women to men through control of sexuality versus those that would promote women’s autonomy and insist on neutrality toward family form. Finally, the chapter will conclude that changes in the family magnify the increasing inequality in society, and that the class-based nature of changes in marriage will guarantee increasing disinvestment in the next generation as a whole.

Naomi R. Cahn, Red v. Blue Marriage, in Marriage at the Crossroads: Law, Policy, and the Brave New World of Twenty-First-Century Families, Cambridge University Press, 9 (2012).
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