Since the publication of Soft Patriarchs, New Men, Wilcox has expanded his research to lower income and more ethnically diverse segments of society. Not surprisingly, his conclusions have been the same. Religion, it turns out, is good not only for producing more marriages, but better marriages too:
What I have found so far is that religious attendance does promote higher rates of marriage among blacks and Latinos. I have also found that religion fosters better relationships among married and unmarried black and Latino couples in America. Most interestingly, men’s attendance is more predictive of marriage and relationship quality than is women’s attendance. So across racial and ethnic lines, religion matters in making men better husbands and fathers.
Policymakers need to do a lot more to make marriage pay in low-income communities. The could start by addressing the marriage penalty facing low-income couples. In most states, low-income couples face a 20-30 percent hit in their real income/benefits if they get married. For instance, most unmarried low-income single mothers lose Medicaid if they marry a man working full-time in a low-wage job. So the government can and should do a lot more to reinforce the economic basis of marriage in low-income communities.
Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.