The struggling economy has pushed weddings to an all-time low, but according to a new report released on October 7, 2010 young adults with college degrees are more likely to be married than those who are less educated.
An analysis of 2008 U.S. census data conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, an independent non-partisan public opinion research organization based in Washington, D.C. that studies attitudes toward politics the press and public policy issues, approximately 62 percent of college educated 30-year-olds were married or had been married—compared with only 60 percent of those without a bachelor’s degree. (Figures from 2008 were the latest census data available with marriage rates broken down by education level.)
The relatively close figures may not sound noteworthy, but show a significant shift compared to statistics from two decades years ago, when young adults who didn’t finish college were more likely to be married than their counterparts with degrees. In 1990 approximately 75 percent of young adults without college degrees were married or had been married, compared to only 69 percent of those with college degrees.
The median age at first marriage has risen to 28, even among the college-educated. In 1990, the gap had been as much as three years apart — age 27 for college-educated and age 24 for non-degree holders.
Some experts have attributed the shift in age partly to the economic downturn that has hit lesser-educated workers harder.
“There’s a double whammy going on for the people who aren’t college-educated,” said Richard Fry, senior research associate at the Pew Research Center. "They are facing difficult employment, and they are less likely to enter into marriage and receive the economic benefits marriage provides,” he explained in an Associated Press article by Hope Yen.
As a whole, more younger adults are postponing marriage while they struggle to find work, and those lacking college degrees are also seeing sharper declines in marriage. More unmarried couples are living together than ever before, particularly among those who are not college-educated.
Cheryl Wetzstein of the Washington Times also explained that some people view marriage as a “crowning” achievement that one does after getting a good job, buying a house and even having a baby. Others think couples are postponing marriage until they can afford the weddings and honeymoons of their dreams.
Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center put it this way: “The labor market has not been kind to young, less educated workers. College used to delay marriage. Now, not completing college delays marriage.”
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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