Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Twenty years ago David was dealing drugs in Spanish Harlem. After a personal tragedy, he found solace at a Pentecostal Church and turned his life around. Much attention has been paid in recent years to the state of the family, especially among African Americans and Latinos. Almost all of these commentators ignore the powerful role that organized religion plays in sustaining family life in minority communities across America.
Soul Mates is the first book to chronicle the vital role that churches are playing in contemporary America among Black and Latino families. Chapter by chapter, we study nonmarital childbearing, marriage, relationship quality, and divorce. Both are much more likely than white Americans to have children prior to marriage. African Americans also have lower marriage rates and higher divorce rates. But we find that organized religion is a bulwark against the social and economic currents that buffet American families.
Church attendance reduces the likelihood of having children before marriage. Religious participation also makes marriage more likely in the first place. And men of color who attend church services regularly are less likely to run afoul of the law and more likely to succeed in the workforce. Religion is not a panacea. Curiously, regular church attendance reduces white divorce rates but has no impact on Black and Latino marital stability. And of course religion cannot make up for the profound economic challenges that have undermined intimate relationships in contemporary America.
Nor does religion completely offset the seismic shift in norms surrounding marriage and relationships. Indeed, Soul Mates shows that structural factors, like income and education, and cultural forces, including attitudes toward marriage and single parenting, both contribute to the retreat from marriage. One of the strengths of our book is the wealth of evidence we bring to the table. Soul Mates is based on the analysis of six national data sets, scores of interviews and focus groups with clergy and parishioners, and a year of ethnographic fieldwork.
The national data allow us to identify patterns and trends, while the interviews and focus groups tell the stories of individual Latinos and African Americans.
Soul Mates introduces us to many people like David Hernandez. About the Authors Nicholas H. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley and his Ph.
Bradford Wilcox; Oxford University Press, Wolfinger is also the author of about 40 articles or chapters, as well as short pieces in The Atlantic, National Review, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He is currently working, with Matthew McKeever, on a new book on the changing economics of single motherhood to be published by Oxford University Press.
He lives happily alone in both places. Follow him on Twitter at NickWolfinger. In his latest work with Nicholas H. They find that both married and unmarried minority couples who attend church together are significantly more likely to enjoy happy relationships than black and Latino couples who do not regularly attend. Churches serving these communities, Wilcox and Wolfinger argue, promote a code of decency, encompassing hard work, temperance, and personal responsibility, that benefits black and Latino families.
Wilcox is exploring the contribution that families make to the economic welfare of individuals and societies. He is also the coauthor of Gender and Parenthood: Many people aren't sure there's still a benefit to being married.
But this groundbreaking research by Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Wolfinger shows what those of us who are regular churchgoers know: Nonetheless, their findings also indicate churches still have a lot to do to help reduce divorce among their members.
One thing that is clear about the importance of this research: The more we know about what it takes to create healthy, happy marriages, the better our society will be. Wilcox and Wolfinger deftly synthesize data from many sources to argue that religious institutions, practices, and beliefs can strengthen marriages and families among African Americans and Latinos, thus countering the corrosive effects of racism and structural disadvantage.
Rigorous and highly readable, this volume deserves careful attention from scholars, practitioners, and the wider public. Ellison, Professor of Sociology and Dean's Distinguished Professor of Social Science, the University of Texas at San Antonio The social transformation of American family life over the last half century has produced complex and varied consequences in people's lives.
Soul Mates closely examines those experiences among two important minority groups, contributing particular insight on the often-neglected question of how religion interacts with family structure to shape life outcomes. Christian Smith, William R. Professor of Sociology, University of Notre Dame In Soul Mates, Wilcox and Wolfinger show that churches foster 'a code of decency' that has helped to modulate the impact of family breakdown for Latinos and African Americans while recognizing that religion does not fully protect churchgoers from the earthquake in the American family.
Their important book should be of great interest to scholars of the family and to others concerned about family life among African Americans and Latinos.
Isabel Sawhill, Senior Fellow,.