I have been asked to share my research regarding marriage and divorce in the United States. Apparently there is talk that men shouldn’t marry because it will ruin men financially (or whatever the popular reason is for the month), or that people should marry young if they want to stay married. Is this the truth of the matter? And if it is, do the statistics change when we break down the data according to race, age and education? You will see when we find research that breaks down the statistics by race, age and education, there is a marked difference in results.
New research from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University (study conducted in 2011) shows there is substantial variation in the first-time divorce rate when it is broken down by race and education. But, there is also evidence that a college degree has a protective effect against divorce among all races. The study also found that among white women, there were few differences according to education, but those with a college degree experienced lower divorce rates than any other education group. Read the research here.
In another study, using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79)—a survey of people born during the 1957–1964 period, marriage patterns differed markedly by age at marriage and by educational attainment. College-educated men and women married at older ages compared with their counterparts who had fewer years of schooling. About equal proportions of men and women who received a college degree married by age 46, 88 percent for men and 90 percent for women. Men and women who did not complete high school were less likely to marry than were men and women with more education. Men who earned a bachelor’s degree were more likely to marry than men with less education. The chance of a marriage ending in divorce was lower for people with more education, with over half of marriages of those who did not complete high school having ended in divorce compared with approximately 30 percent of marriages of college graduates. The study continues: For both men and women, the probability of divorce declines with educational attainment. The gradient, however, is steeper for men than it is for women. For men, those who married and only completed high school are 25 percentage points more likely to divorce than are their counterparts who have a college degree. In contrast, this difference is roughly half as large for women.
A negative relationship between the age at which the marriage began and the propensity for the marriage to end in divorce is also apparent. Among marriages that began at ages 15 to 22, 58 percent ended in divorce. Of marriages that began at ages 23 to 28, 43 percent ended in divorce. Of marriages that began at ages 29 to 34, the percentage that ends in divorce declines further to 36 percent. Hence, the data supports the finding that, on average, people who marry later are more likely than younger couples to stay married.
Compared with Whites and Hispanics, Blacks were less likely to marry and, conditional on marriage, more likely to divorce. Read the research paper here.
In January of 2010 the Pew Research Center did a study called: Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage. The paper found that consistent with previous research, that “the degree of associative mating (the tendency of people with similar characteristics to marry) had increased” from 1970 to 2007. The study also found that women have outpaced men in education and earnings growth. A larger share of men in 2007, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own. A larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.
Overall, married adults have made greater economic gains over the past four decades than unmarried adults. From 1970 to 2007, their median adjusted household incomes, the sum of financial contributions of all members of the household, rose more than those of the unmarried. For unmarried adults at each level of education, men’s household incomes fared worse than those of women. And household incomes of unmarried men with college degrees grew at half the rate of household incomes of married men with only a high school diploma — 33% versus 15%. The data plainly shows that marriage for men is more profitable than staying single. Which isn’t rocket science, obviously two income homes have more assets than a one income home.
Education matters: …less educated married women now are far less likely than in the past to have a spouse who works — only 77% did in 2007, compared with 92% in 1970. The study says, among U.S.-born adults ages 30-44, most married men did not have a working spouse in 1970; now, most do. Married women, on the other hand, are somewhat less likely than their 1970 counterparts to have a husband who works. So while women are now working more, men are working less. Educated women are far better off at finding a husband who works.
According to the study, the decline in marriage rates has been steepest for the least educated, especially men, and smallest for college graduates, especially women. Another article from the NY Times titled “The Divorce Surge is over But the Myth Lives On” states: About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist.
The article continues: There are many reasons for the drop in divorce, including later marriages, birth control and the rise of so-called love marriages. These same forces have helped reduce the divorce rate in parts of Europe, too.
…because the decline in divorce is concentrated among people with college degrees. For the less educated, divorce rates are closer to those of the peak divorce years.
Ultimately, a long view is likely to show that the rapid rise in divorce during the 1970s and early 1980s was an anomaly. It occurred at the same time as a new feminist movement, which caused social and economic upheaval. Today, society has adapted, and the divorce rate has declined again. “It’s just love now,” Mr. Wolfers said. “We marry to find our soul mate…”
The delay in marriage is part of the story, allowing people more time to understand what they want in a partner and to find one. The median age for marriage in 1890 was 26 for men and 22 for women. By the 1950s, it had dropped to 23 for men and 20 for women. In 2004, it climbed to 27 for men and 26 for women.
Traditionally our men and women married late:
To summarize the above:
- Men and women tend to marry people with similar characteristics and this trend is increasing.
- Those who marry are marrying later.
- Married men are better off financially than unmarried men.
- Unmarried men are worse off than unmarried women.
- Uneducated men show the steepest decline in marriage rates. Divorce rates are highest among people who marry young, the uneducated and Blacks.
- People now marry for “love”.
- Divorce rates are declining, especially for white women and the college educated.