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.
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