“Here sits Rhonda, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Rhonda with a baby carriage. How many children will she have?” That was the order: kissing, loving, marriage, then babies. We knew no other order. That was our model, our marriage imprint.
This new American Experiment symposium grows out of a book of mine published just about a year ago, From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation, which examined many of the problems and shortcomings resulting from very high rates of nonmarital births, very high rates of divorce, and routinely short-lived cohabiting relationships. One of the book’s central themes is how such family churning—more specifically, the extent to which it hurts great numbers of children—is leading, and can only lead, to stunted mobility and deeper class divisions in a nation that has never viewed itself in such splintered ways.