College Educated Adults Now More Likely To Get Married

October 8, 2010

Groom placing ring on his Bride's finger New research shows that for the first time, U.S. adults with a college education are more likely than their less-educated counterparts to have been married by the age of 30.

The study, released by the Pew Research Center, called the new trend a "reversal of long-standing marital patterns" as throughout the 20th century, marriage favored less-educated adults. CNN pointed out that the study defined "college-educated" as an individual who holds at least a bachelor's degree.

According to the study, which analyzed historical decennial census data and the 2008 American Community Survey, marriage rates among 20-somethings has declined sharply since 1990. However, the decline has been steeper for adults without a bachelor's degree. In 1990, 75 percent of 30-year-olds without a college degree were married or had been married. On the other hand, just 69 percent of adults with a college degree were married. By 2008, the reverse was true. Sixty-two percent of college-educated 30-year-olds were married or had been married, whereas just 60 percent of 30-year-olds without a college degree were married.

Furthermore, data showed that young adults without a college education have steadily delayed marriage. In 2008, the median age at first marriage for both groups was 28. In 2000, college-educated adults were found to marry for the first time at 28, whereas less-educated adults married for the first time at the age of 26. The Washington Times added that in 1950, non-college-educated adults married at 22 and college grads married at 24.

Richard Fry, senior research associate at the Pew Research Center, told CNN that economic hardships among young men may be one of the reasons this generation is holding off on marriage. As CNN pointed out, the high school-educated man between 25 and 34 earned on average about $32,000 a year in 2008 versus $36,300 in 1990--a 12 percent decline.

Conversely, college-educated men of the same age group were earning $55,000 in 2008, compared to $52,300 in 1900.

Sociologist Andrew Cherlin, who studies marriage at Johns Hopkins University told The Washington Post, "Young adults today believe you shouldn't get married until you're economically secure. Until at least the young man has a steady job, the young adults won't marry."

CNN also pointed out that cohabitation has become a more acceptable alternative to marriage. Half of couples living together are under 35 and more than 80 percent lack a bachelor's degree.

Christine Whelan, sociologist and author of "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women", said the Pew results are beneficial for educated women as they shatter the myth that a college education negatively affects a woman's changes of marriage. However, Fry pointed out that adults without a bachelor's degree face "a double whammy" because "they are facing difficult employment, and they are less likely to enter into marriage and receive the economic benefits marriage provides.

Indeed, the study noted that married couples tend to be better off due to higher income and greater shared resources. The annual median income for married adults in 2008 was $77,000, compared to just $54,000 for unmarried adults.

Interestingly, pointed out The Washington Times, a college degree also decreased the risk of divorce. In 2008, 1.6 percent of all married college-educated adults 35 to 39 had divorced, whereas 2.9 percent of married adults without a college education had divorced.

Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin


"College-educated more likely to marry, study says," CNN.com, October 7, 2010, Stephanie Chen

"College-educated now more likely to get married," washingtontimes.com, October 7, 2010, Cheryl Wetzstein

"No more 'marriage gap' for college-educated women," washingtonpost.com, October 7, 2010, Donna St. George

"The Reversal of the College Marriage Gap," pewsocialtrends.org, October 7, 2010, Richard Fry

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