Then and Now: Social Norms Evolving in U.S.

By Maggie Freleng

In 1964, Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’” and indeed, they still are.

Just a few years before he sang those iconic lyrics, in 1958 only 4 percent of the population approved of marriage between a white person and a black person. Today, 87 percent approve; 96 percent of black people and 84 percent of white people.

That is a very impressive and welcomed change. VITAMIN W found some other statistics from some of today’s most talked about issues to show the times they really are “a-changin’.”

According to a 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, almost half of college students judge men and women with similar sexual histories by the same standard and hold equally negative attitudes toward both their male and female peers. In the 1950s, before the sexual revolution of the 60s, men and women would not have held that kind of sexual parity.

In 1987, disturbingly only half of Americans said it was always wrong for a man to beat his wife with a belt or a stick; a decade later, 86 percent said it was always wrong.

Between 2001 and 2012, the proportion of Americans who favor same-sex marriage increased from 35 percent to 49 percent. In 2013, that number jumped to 52 percent. If in 2001 only 35 percent accepted same-sex marriage, we can only imagine what that number would have looked like in 1964.

In 2002, 45 percent of people did not agree with having a baby out of wedlock. Today, 60 percent of people find it morally OK. Perhaps that is because within the same time frame, the approval of divorce went up 9 percentage points, from 59 to 68 percent.