Researching marriages has taught us what does and doesn't work. This article describes 5 key points
Study after study is shedding light on the perils of dropping out of high school. Besides not being able to make a reasonable living, own your own home, and have a comfortable retirement, you also may never be able to find time to get married. It is projected that within one or two years, less than half of the U.S. adult population will be married. This fact has social implications. The steady decrease in marriage rates is not only changing family values but it is contributing to the family’s economic inequality.
The Pew Research Center reports that in 1960 nearly three-fourths of adults eighteen and older were married. By 2010, that number was down to fifty-one percent. What is perhaps more disturbing is that four out of ten babies are born to unmarried women. In 1960, it made no difference if you were educated or not. Your chances of being married were the same. Now, nearly two-thirds of college graduates are married as compared to less than half of those with a high school diploma or less. The less education you have, the less likely you are to marry, and the more likely you will divorce if you do marry.
What came first? Did couples who weren’t educated choose not to be married because they didn’t want the additional financial burden? Or do people who quit school do so due to their parents’ marital stress they witness as children, leaving them feeling isolated, alone and as if no one cares? Is quitting school at fifteen a better option if they can find a job and get out of a chaotic home? There are so many questions with the Pew Research Center results, and people in the field of saving as well as promoting marriage and healthy families are trying to come up with solutions. It’s imperative that we do something as a society because we know that being raised in a stable, two-parent household is a strong predictor of educational achievement. Taking that one step further, educational achievement does predict your lifetime income.
There is another change that researchers in the field are finding. In our parent’s generation, men and women married down or up at an equal level. Now couples are marrying who share degrees or levels of education. Women are going to college and getting advanced degrees at a higher rate than ever before. The higher educated couples are so much better off financially than the single parents or the couples without education. But couples at the lower end of the economic ladder are having more kids. These kids are growing up with one parent and no money. The cycle is sure to worsen if we don’t do something about it now.
Cohabitation is different among the educated as well. Among the college or advanced degree couples, co-habitation is more likely a stepping-stone after engagement to be married. With the uneducated, co-habitation is often the end of the road. Sometimes they will co-habitat in an effort to save money for a wedding and a residence. However, children may be born into this lifestyle more likely than not and a recent report from Smartmarriages.com reported that three-fourths of children born into co-habitation see their parents split up by the age of twelve. Those are bad odds for kids. Those are bad odds for us as a society.
There is no one solution to this problem. In a fantasy world, we would mandate that every child finish high school and get some sort of higher education after high school. We would teach boys and girls to focus on their careers, and tutor them as well as their parents if they began falling behind. We would mandate every parent to get an education prior to bringing another baby into the world. But we don’t live in a fantasy world; this complicated problem will require many experts to become involved. As an expert in relationships, I think it all goes back to the parents. Parents have to be parents again. We need to quit thinking the government is more responsible than we are, and we need to quit relying on the government to give us stuff, and begin working toward the betterment of our own lives and the lives of our children. Below are a few suggestions that can begin to help turn the next generation around:
1. Before you ever have a child, have a secure relationship. Do not have a child in a co-habitation lifestyle. No one benefits.
2. Before you marry, get pre-marital counseling. It is more worth your money than anything I can think of.
3. If you are married and have no money, take a few classes at a time (there is free money out there, but you have to talk to the institution about eligibility). Education is the liberator of your situation. Don’t waste your time begging, stealing, or blaming. Put that energy into reading, learning, and writing.
4. If you grew up with abuse, and you are using that as a reason why you cannot go to school or do better as an adult, it is not going to help you. Abuse is wrong and tragic, and I am sorry it happened, but you don’t need to repeat that cycle. It takes strength, but so does feeling bad all the time and continuing the pain of abuse on to your children.
5. If your child is having trouble in school, listen to what the teacher says and be willing to work with them. Your child may be the one that breaks the cycle…but they cannot break it without your help and encouragement.
I grew up in a poor family, but poor doesn’t have to mean uneducated. My mother was a teacher and when I was discouraged with what I didn’t have as compared to others, she told me that. I watched both my mother and father work hard, get taken advantage of, and work harder. Their work was a form of prayer for them, and I believe that is how they survived. They did not blame; they felt lucky to be an American. There were problems then, there are problems now, but if we aren’t all part of the solution, we are part of the problem. Taking the time to encourage a kid’s work ethic, or inspiring them through your work with a church, school, or scout program goes a long way in being part of the solution. –Mary Jo Rapini
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Tags: Marriage, Education, Poverty, Single Family Households, Divorce, Co-Habitation, Relationships, Pre-Marital Counseling