Sociology professor Brad Wilcox has a radical recommendation for young adults: ignore the advice of parents, peers, and pop culture – and get married.

Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, contends that the road to greater overall happiness begins with a walk down the aisle. And he has the data to prove it.

The title of his latest book is Get Married: Why Americans Must Defy the Elites, Forge Strong Families, and Save Civilization. In the opening chapter, Wilcox applauds his University of Virginia students for their curiosity, work ethic, and willingness to volunteer for worthy causes, but he says they, and young adults, in general, have a blind spot: “They are overwhelmingly preoccupied with their education and future careers, to the exclusion of love and marriage… These young people, without knowing it, have soaked up a set of pervasive modern assumptions about the purpose of life.”

In Get Married, Wilcox cites a Pew poll that reveals how 88 percent of parents believe it is important for their kids to be financially independent and have careers they enjoy when they are adults; but only 21 percent said it is important their kids get married, and only 20 percent believed it to be important that their kids have children of their own.

Yet, marriage is the best predictor for happiness, Wilcox said. In an article he co-wrote with David Bass at Unherd.com, that statement is backed up by research from the University of Chicago, which found that “marriage is the most important differentiator of who is happy in America, and that falling marriage rates are a chief reason why happiness has declined nationally. The research, surveying thousands of respondents, revealed a startling 30-percentage-point happiness divide between married and unmarried Americans. This happiness boost held true for both men and women.”

Additionally, marital status is a crucial predictor of a whole host of important economic, emotional, and health outcomes for men and women.

“When it comes to predicting overall happiness, a good marriage is far more important than how much education you get, how much money you make, how often you have sex, and, yes, even how satisfied you are with your work,” Wilcox writes.

At the Colson Center’s National Conference in 2023, Care Net President and CEO Roland Warren was part of a panel discussion entitled “What the Family Reveals About God.” Panelists lamented the fact that the average age for marriage has crept upward to 30 years old despite data (presented by panelist J.P. De Gance) that indicates married couples share higher levels of satisfaction than cohabitating couples, and children with married parents achieve better academically and have greater emotional and physical health.

Roland Warren said the Church and pro-life communities send a mixed message when it comes to the importance and value of marriage in comparison to career goals.

“We’ve bought into the world’s system of stuff being the most important thing. It’s not biblical,” he said. “We don’t want our kids to have sex, but we want them to wait until they’re 30 to get married. But we also don’t want them dating multiple people simultaneously…”

“We should be leaning in, supporting marriage, encouraging marriage. If we, as Christians, live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission within the context of marriage, it will be winsome to the culture.”

Wilcox, during an interview with Dr. Tony Rucinski of the UK’s Coalition for Marriage, said it would be winsome for culture if we had “a revival of norms about commitment, norms about having kids in marriage, and norms about fidelity.”

With his new book, and through his work with the National Marriage Project, Wilcox is challenging the prevailing social narrative and advocating for a renewed appreciation of the institution of marriage as a cornerstone of civilization”.

“When we have good social relationships, especially in terms of marriage and family, we’re more likely to flourish,” Wilcox said during Dr. Rucinski’s interview. “But those relationships are most likely to be doing well when we are committed, when we have a spirit of generosity to our spouse and our kids.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of young adults are not thinking in that way and not learning the skills that will prepare them to be a good spouse and prepare them to be a good parent. And that’s a big challenge today.”