A new study done by a group associated with the University of Virginia correlates marriage with poverty levels in the U.S. What the study finds is that contrary to past studies, today the more educated a person is, the more likely that person is to be in a stable marriage with children after the wedding. The less educated, the less likely a person is to be married, the more likely they are to have children out of wedlock and the more likely they are to live in poverty.
From the "Executive Summary" of the report:
Although marriage is still held in high regard across social classes in America, in recent years, moderately educated Americans have become less likely to form stable, high-quality marriages, while highly (college) educated Americans (who make up 30 percent of the adult population) have become more likely to do so.
[…]In the 1970s, about 69 percent of moderately and highly educated married adults indicated they were “very happy” in their marriages, whereas only 59 percent of married adults with the least education (high-school dropouts) reported they were very happy. By the 2000s, 69 percent of highly educated married adults still reported that they were very happy, but only 57 percent of moderately educated married adults and 52 percent of the least educated (who make up 12 percent of the adult population) reported the same.
Divorce rates are up for moderately educated Americans, relative to those who are highly educated.
[…]The moderately educated middle is dramatically more likely than highly educated Americans to have children outside of marriage.
The Christian Science Monitor reports on this study in an article headlined "Marriage is crumbling in blue-collar America"
Blue-collar Americans, once seen as the bulwark of conservative American attitudes toward marriage and pregnancy out of wedlock, now see marital quality, divorce, and childbearing more like the least educated and poorest Americans, leading to a growing “marriage gap” in American society.
Authors of “The State of Our Unions,” the new report that presents the data, attribute much of the shift to the steady decline of blue-collar jobs in the US, which has ratcheted up financial pressure on moderately educated Americans. Others point to changing – and perhaps unrealistic – perceptions of marriage.
The Courier-Journal in Kentucky reports on the same study and points out the study's correlation to similar research done by the Pew Foundation.
Russ Douthat, who's been writing about this on the NY Times blog points out that there's some good news in the report as well:
48 percent of college-educated Americans now agree that “divorce should be more difficult to obtain,” up from just 36 percent in the 1970s.
Lots to think about in this, especially for those in parish work in working class communities.