Educated Favor Marriage More
Special Report - December 9, 2010
The latest State of Our Unions report warns that a marriage gap is forming between the middle and upper classes in America, with marriage weakening among the moderately educated, and gaining strength among the higher educated. The 2010 State of Our Unions, “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America,” was released December 6 by the National Marriage Project (NMP) at the University of Virginia, and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values. Written by NMP director, W. Bradford Wilcox, the annual report calls the decline of marriage among the middle class the “most consequential marriage trend of our time.” The report notes divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates are increasing, and marital happiness is decreasing in Middle America (or among the “moderately educated” who are high school graduates that do not have four-year college degrees). According to the report, moderately educated Americans make up 58 percent of the adult population, while the highly educated (those with college degrees) account for 30 percent of the adult population, and the least educated (high school dropouts) make up 12 percent of the population.
“[T]he family lives of today’s moderately educated Americans increasingly resemble those of high-school dropouts, too often burdened by financial stress, partner conflict, single parenting, and troubled children.”
Among the key findings from the report:
Moderately educated Americans are more likely than college educated Americans to have an out-of-wedlock birth. For example, in the late 2000s, only six percent of babies born to college-educated mothers were out-of-wedlock, compared to 44 percent of babies born to mothers with only high school degrees (and 54 percent of babies born to the least-educated mothers).
Divorce rates are increasing among moderately educated Americans, compared to higher educated Americans. For example, the report shows that between the 1970s and 1990s, divorce and/or separation in the first 10 years of marriage became less likely for higher educated Americans (from 15 percent to 11 percent), and among the least educated (from 46 percent to 36 percent), while divorce became slightly more likely for the moderately educated (from 36 percent to 37 percent).
Marriage quality (i.e. happiness in marriage) is in decline for the moderately educated but not for the highly educated. The report notes that in the 1970s, about 69 percent of the highly educated and moderately educated reported being happy in their marriages, along with 59 percent of the least educated. By the 2000s, 69 percent of highly educated Americans said they were “happy” in their marriages, while only 57 percent of the moderately educated reported being happy (along with 52 percent of the least educated).
Children of highly educated parents are now more likely than in recent years to be living with both their mother and father, while children of moderately educated parents are far less likely to be living with both parents. For example, the report notes that the percentage of 14-year-old girls with moderately educated mothers who live with both parents fell from 74 percent to 58 percent between the 1970s and the 2000s.
In what the report calls an “historical reversal,” the cultural foundations of marriage (defined as “adherence to a marriage mindset, religious attendance, and faith in marriage”) are stronger among the highly educated than the moderately educated.
The NMP report points to a number of cultural developments that have contributed to the move away from marriage in Middle America, including: a move away from more traditional views on marriage-related issues (such as a greater acceptance of premarital sex and divorce), and a greater likelihood among moderately educated Americans to engage in marriage-eroding behaviors that negatively impact their success in marriage (such as multiple sexual partners before marriage and marital infidelity). It also points to a “growing disengagement of Middle Americans from civil society over the past 40 years,” and a decline in church attendance. “[H]ighly educated America is now both more marriage-minded and religious than is moderately educated America…” the NMP report states. “Accordingly, Middle Americans are now markedly less likely than they used to be to benefit from the social solidarity, the religious and normative messages about marriage and family life, and the social control associated with regular churchgoing, especially in comparison with their neighbors who graduated from college.”
To close the growing marriage gap, the report recommends adopting “policies that help strengthen employment opportunities for high school graduates, cultural reforms that seek to reconnect marriage and parenthood for all Americans, and efforts to strengthen religious and civic institutions.”
“The growing marriage gap between highly educated and moderately educated Americans should be of concern to Americans of every stripe," added Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, in a press release. “The vast majority of American adults aspire to marriage, and children are much more likely to thrive if they are raised in a married home with their own mother and father. Unfortunately, marriage has now fallen out of reach for millions of adults and children in Middle America.”
Attitudes On Sex And Marriage - November 23, 2010
Census Report Examines Cohabitation - November 9, 2010
Study Shows College Marriage Gap - October 22, 2010
Most Children Live With Parents - July 27, 2010
Characteristics of Cohabiting Adults Studied - July 16, 2009
The Benefits of Marriage - FNC - Nov/Dec, 2008
Married and Healthy - FNC - Nov/Dec, 2008
Report Analyzes Cohabitation Effects - June 23, 2008
Landmark Study Estimates Costs of Family Fragmentation - April 16, 2008
Traditional Family Still the Majority - February 27, 2008
How Cohabitation Undermines Marriage and the Family - Findings - June 2005
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