Report Finds That College Graduates Have Better Marriages

Highly educated Americans are becoming pro-marriage, while the less educated are losing faith in it.

college graduates

The National Marriage Project has released a new state of unions report indicating that marriages are more stable among Americans who have a four-year college degree or more.

According to the latest national data, "Middle Americans," defined as the 58 percent of Americans with a high school education but no college degree, have a lower marriage success rate than their affluent counterparts. In fact, the rate of divorce, non-marital childbearing and marital quality among Middle Americans has grown to resemble that of the poor. Unlike in previous years, highly educated, wealthy Americans are actually embracing a pro-marriage mindset, while lower classes are moving away from it.


Researchers at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute of American Values are researching trends contributing to the reversal. These include increased unemployment, a slump in religious attendance and changing attitudes toward marriage. Although highly educated Americans are more likely to support progressive social issues, it looks like they're reverting to a more traditional view on family life. A few points worth noting:

  • Faith and a traditional "marriage mindset" now play a more pronounced role in the marriages of highly educated Americans. Historically, higher classes were less likely to attend church and adhere to a "marriage mindset." The latest data shows, however, that 34 percent of highly educated Americans attend church services on at least a weekly basis, compared to 28 percent of Middle Americans. Moreoever, more teenagers from highly educated families are more likely to feel embarrassed over an out-of-wedlock pregnancy than their counterparts from moderately educated homes. How Did Marriage Become Religious?
  • The out-of-wedlock birthrate is significantly higher among moderately educated Americans than highly educated ones. A whopping 54 percent of Middle American mothers report an out-of-wedlock child, as opposed to only 6 percent of highly educated moms. Compare this to the '80s, where the number was 33 percent for least-educated mothers and 13 percent for moderately educated ones.
  • The divorce rate among Middle Americans is increasing. Meanwhile, dissolution between highly educated spouses within the first 10 years of marriage has gone down over the past couple of decades.

Although it's too early to present a solution for the lowered marital quality rate for Middle Americans, sociologists are entreating people to care even when they don't fall into that demographic. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist from the University of Virginia, recalled the trickle-down effect of marital quality on the success of that couple's children.


Basically, the more educated you are, the more likely it is that your marriage will succeed, giving your children an edge with academic and career success, as well as an advantage in securing stable marriages themselves. Unless the quality of marriages among Middle Americans improves, Wilcox says, children from those families will struggle harder to experience upward mobility. Is Marriage Obsolete?

"The retreat from marriage in Middle America means that all too many Americans will not be able to realize the American dream," he said in the National Marriage Project's latest press release.

What does this information mean to you? Do you think the quality of your parents' marriage plays a big role in how your own relationships and success played out?