08 October 2010

Institution of Marriage On Mend

Today's generation of women are much more likely to marry by the time that they turn 40 than they were in the 1990s, and divorce rates, particularly for college educated women are falling.

The Pew Research Center interpreting Cenus Bureau data finds that education no longer has an impact on when a white woman will marry, or how likely she is to marry. College educated black women are more likely to marry than black women who lack a college education.

[White] women . . . ages 35 to 39, have been as likely to marry as those who did not graduate from college . . . For both groups, an analysis of 2008 figures shows 84 percent had married at some point before age 40.

That is a significant shift from the 1990s, when young adults who didn't finish college were more likely to have wed than their better-educated counterparts, 75 percent to 69 percent. . . . Now, across the population, the typical age of marriage is 28 for both those who complete higher education and those who don't take that path or in some cases don't finish. . . .

Since 1990, college-educated African-American women have been more likely to marry than their counterparts who do not have as much education . . . That marriage gap among African-American women is sharpening[.]

"College-educated women of all races . . . are marrying at rates similar to what the college-educated women of their mothers' generation did, but doing so later in life, and they are marrying at rates much higher than the college-educated women of their grandmothers' generation. And they have become less likely to divorce compared to their mothers' generation."

The rising age of marriage for women who haven't graduated from college is particularly interesting, because the conventional narrative has been that the need to get an education first has been what is postponing marriage ages. Apparently, this is no longer true. The average woman who doesn't go to college now spends ten years as a single young woman before getting married.

Given that college educated women, particularly those who marry later in life, are much less likely to divorce than women who have not graduated from college, college educated women are now more likely to be married than those who are not. Also, as past posts at this blog have noted, college educated women now have more children, on average, than women who do not graduate from college, for the first time in a very long time.

To what do we owe this good news?

Maybe we should credit gay marriage and domestic partnerships.

[O]ver the last five years (2003 v. 2008) divorce rates have fallen in states that have not banned gay marriage by an average of about 7% and fallen even faster (about 21%) in the one state (Massachusetts) that has legalized gay marriage, while divorce rates have increased in states that have banned gay marriage (by about 1%).

California's future of marital bliss looks bright.

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