While considering Americas relational life recently I pulled together the following facts. I wonder what you make of them? If you see a problem, what do you think the essence of the problem is?
Note: of course it’s easy to cherry pick facts or extract them from context to make a point. And I always have questions about research methods and controls and correlation/causation confusion. But on the face of it, the situation looks pretty grim.
Americans have too few relationships About one in four Americans has no one with whom to talk about weighty matters, and nearly half of the population is one close friend or family member away from being socially isolated. (National Conference on Citizenship www.ncoc.net/290)
Americans have too many relationships The average American has 634 ties in their overall network, and technology users have bigger networks. www.pewinternet.org/reports/2011/technology-and-social-networks.aspx
Note: in case you wondered if there’s a limit consider “Dunbar’s Number”: according to Robin Dunbar, the size of our neocortex — the part of the brain used for conscious thought and language — limits us to managing social circles of around 150 friends no matter how sociable we are. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/mar/14/my-bright-idea-robin-dunbar)
Lenders and borrowers are further apart:
- geographical distance: local lending institutions no longer make a significant proportion of the loans that are originated.
- transactional distance: there little direct contact; instead intermediaries such as mortgage brokers, appraisers, insurers, and closing officers, separate the principals.
- financial distance: many borrowers have no equity (or negative equity) in their homes, and due to the securitization of loans through the secondary mortgage market, few originating lenders retain a stake in the loans they create.
From “The Structural Causes of Mortgage Fraud” James Charles Smith, University of Georgia Law School http://www.scribd.com/doc/35886545/The-Structural-Causes-of-Mortgage-Fraud.
More Americans are incarcerated
Bureau of Justice Statistics http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/glance/corr2.cfm
Americans are having fewer encounters (over last quarter of 20th Century)
- 58% drop attending club meetings
- 43% drop family dinners
- 35% drop having friends over
- 10% more people bowling, but 40% fewer bowling leagues
Couples are committing to each other less, and staying committed less.
- Since 1970 the number of Americans living together outside of marriage has increased more than 1,000 percent, with such couples now making up about 10% of all couples” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)
- 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. (NMP, “Evolution of Divorce” Wilcox 2009)
- Cohabiting couples have a significantly higher dissolution rate than married couples. One recent study found that “children born to cohabiting versus married parents have over five times the risk of experiencing their parents’ separation.” (NMP Cohabitation Report 2008)