So is marriage. According to a new report from the US Census Bureau, the South and West lead the nation in both divorces and marriages.  And people are waiting longer to marry. That trend is echoed in the LDS Church as well.

Wasn’t it just last April in General Conference that the theme could have been, “Young men! Marry now, ask questions later.”

The report states that many women are no longer marrying in their teens and men are postponing marriage past their college years.

The states with highest rates of marriage are: Utah, Wyoming and Arkansas. They also had above average rates of divorce, while Maine, Alaska, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Nevada were tops in divorce.

The age of first marriage is also getting higher. In 1970, more than 50% (57%) of men married between the age of 20 and 24. In 2009, 2/3’s of men married after age 25 and only 34% married between 20 and 24. For women, in 1970, 42% were teenagers when they married.  By the age of 24, 88% were married. In 2009, only 7% of women married in their teens and only 38% were married by 24.

In total, the median age of first marriages went from 22.5 for men to 28.4 and for women, 20.6 to 26.5. (CBS news)

This is exactly the same trend in the Church that has leaders concerned. Women are postponing marriage and children for education and employment, while the men are just postponing marriage, period. Call it their extended teen years, perhaps. I should talk as I was 28 when I got married. This postponement of marriage in the Church has an effect on “replenishing the earth,” chastity before marriage and overall activity rates among single members.

And some couples are choosing not to get married at all. In a 2007 report, the Census Bureau reported that cohabiting couples make up as much as 10% of all U.S. couples, married or not. This actual number is about 6.4 million households. Of those, more than 2/3’s have at least one child in the home, belonging to one partner or both.  Research also shows that in the US, these relationships are not very stable or long term compared to other countries where the practice is more common. (CNN)

This has implications for both children growing up in unstable environments, and for the Church, making it harder to do missionary work among people who are coupled with children, but not married.

The other statistic that may be more alarming is the rising rate of unwed births. While this was, in the past, reserved for teenagers who made mistakes, it is becoming much more common in our society among older women.  (In 2009, 41% of all children born in the US were to unwed mothers. (Only 5%, 50 years ago). Among certain minority groups, the numbers are much higher. The troubling fact is that these children generally perform worse in school, have higher poverty rates and impaired development.

“Some children of unmarried parents, of course, turn out just fine, particularly if the parents are economically secure or in committed, long-term relationships, or if the single parent is particularly strong and motivated. And as married parents will tell you, wedlock does not guarantee untroubled kids.”(USA Today)

Seems to me, the religious communities, including the LDS Church, should be paying more attention to the situation of declining numbers of marriages, poor marriages, children born to unwed parents and other real societal difficulties instead of focusing so much of their time and resources on abortion and gay marriages.

Your opinions?