by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Americans are turning to their husbands and wives for support amid a nationwide pandemic that reveals the importance of strong families, results from a new survey suggest.
Results from the 2020 American Family Survey, administered in July by researchers at Brigham Young University, found that more than half of married couples have seen their appreciation for their partners rise during the pandemic and have been better insulated against loneliness and increased interpersonal tension when compared with their unmarried counterparts.
Those findings, along with other indicators from the study, suggest that Americans see relationships as a “source of strength and a set of tools that allow Americans to be resilient in times of challenge,” Chris Karpowitz, one of the survey’s coauthors, said during a Tuesday presentation of its results.
But while those with families are benefiting from tight social bonds amid an unprecedented moment, those benefits do not accrue to everyone, with the pandemic expected to “deepen already existing divides” around family and marriage, Brookings Institution social scholar Richard Reeves said Tuesday. That extends to family formation, with early evidence showing a precipitous drop in new marriages, as people meet less and postpone their marriages more. That could push young people to delay marriage further—exacerbating the preexisting disadvantages that come with putting it off.
As a result, the coronavirus pandemic appears to simultaneously show the importance of family while reducing some Americans’ access to its key institutions. That means, paradoxically, that it is likely to further entrench the growing “marriage gap” and marriage’s development into a luxury good.
Media commentators have feared that the pandemic would further erode the American family, with interest in divorce skyrocketing in jurisdictions such as New York City. But the new AFS offers a more sanguine picture. …