What are the Effects of Marriage and Religion on African Americans in Urban America?

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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... ... middle of paper ... ...ay also help explain distinctive class, racial, and ethnic patterns of marriage. Works Cited Furstenberg, Frank. 2001. “The Fading Dream: Prospects for Marriage in the Inner City.” In Problem of the Century, edited by E. Anderson and D. Massey. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation Allison, Paul D. 1995. Survival Analysis using the SAS System: A Practical Guide. Cary, NC: SAS Institute, Inc.. Anderson, Katherine, Don Browning, and Brian Boyer. 2002. Marriage: Just a Piece of Paper? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. Axinn, William G. and Arland Thornton. 2000. “The Transformation in the Meaning of Marriage.” In The Ties that Bind, edited by L. Waite. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter. Thornton, Arland, William G. Axinn, and Daniel H. Hill. 1992. “Reciprocal Effects of Religiosity, Cohabitation, and Marriage.” American Journal of Sociology 98:628-651.

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