Divorce and Education levels: The news is that marriages are more successful when education levels are exceptionally high and less successful when education levels are moderate; also, the middle class is less successful at marriage than the very wealthy
In When Marriage Disappears: The New Middle America (State of our Union, 2010) W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and Elizabeth Marquardt of the Center for Marriage and Families Institute for American Values in New York City make some interesting assertions. One is that highly educated are less likely to divorce than the moderately educated. Also, marriage is disappearing in middle America and is increasingly becoming the province of the rich. It is not just education that sets successful spouses apart. Indeed, it is also cultural and financial superiority (which obviously is buffered by superior education).
And this is a bad thing obviously. For the entire country and the future stability of the United States. Because the Middle class is arguably the most important group in American society as far as providing the “glue” that holds the two ends of the fabric together. With this deterioration in marriage and our inability to hold our marriages together, the researchers imply that American society as we know it, could literally come apart at the seams. Check out a report in Psychology Today on their findings which reads in part:
The most stunning summary statement of their report reads as follows:
“So the United States is increasingly a separate and unequal nation when it comes to the institution of marriage. Marriage is in danger of becoming a luxury good attainable only to those with the material and cultural means to grab hold of it. The marginalization of marriage in Middle America is especially worrisome, because this institution has long served the American experiment in democracy as an engine of the American Dream, a seedbed of virtue for children, and one of the few sources of social solidarity in a nation that otherwise prizes individual liberty.”
It probably goes without saying – to marriage researchers like us who for the past three decades have studied successful marriages around the world, including 45 countries on six continents, the results of this comprehensive study give us much pause for concern. Here’s why.
Just imagine – the most fundamental and central component of American society – the glue of our socialization process for the total of American history (and for the history of much of the world for that matter) – has been marriage. There has been no more important “glue” for the social structure of America than marriage. Any threat to the sanctity or importance of marriage between two people puts our society at risk.
As the authors of When Marriage Disappears tell us, marriage works much better for those who are college educated than those who are not. The message here is clear. Don’t be deluded into thinking that education doesn’t matter when it comes to happiness and successful marriage.
Education is always the answer. Make no mistake about that. If America is to endure we must provide educational opportunity for all. And the success of marriage is education-related. Think about it!
We have researched and written about successful marriage around the world and have learned what makes marriage work. The results of our research are clear – successful marriages have common and pervasive characteristics, and they can be modeled! [more]
So, what is the solution? What should folks who are in Middle America do to save their marriages? What should folks with less education do to save their marriages? Meaning, is it a question of those in these groups getting married in lesser numbers? Or are they getting divorced in higher numbers? If it is the former, then obviously, the solution is to increase their marriage rate through education and incentives. Make it worth their while to get married in the first place. Whether that is through tax incentives, or other social perks. If the problem is the latter – greater divorce rates for these groups – then public service announcements might help to motivate these folks. Not necessarily Nancy Reagan style PAs but some sort of public initiative that is put forth by local governments that encourages folks to try to work out their problems and to exhaust all options before seeking a divorce. So, for example, maybe local state laws can require a “cooling off period” prior to obtaining a divorce judgment. Or, in order to get married in the first place, require proof of premarital counseling.
Also, states could offer marriage classes for those who are married (sort of the way many offer parenting classes for those who are divorced). Since we have become a nation of the “no fault divorce” there probably is not point in suggesting that divorce needs to be more difficult to obtain. But believe it or not, that would stem the divorce rate for the middle class. At the same time, it is perfectly understandable that folks should not be forced to stay in a broken marriage and so no fault makes sense. But can a high tax be placed on the process as a sort of deterrent, maybe? That is, in addition to the filing fees and other court fees, perhaps a divorce tax might be a bit of a deterrent for some folks at least.
And lastly, more education would be great. Maybe if higher education were more affordable for Americans, more Americans would obtain a higher education. And since a higher education is associated with a higher marriage rate and a lower divorce rate, then obviously by making education more affordable for Americans, the government would actually be safeguarding American society and culture since more people would get married and stay married…..wonder what happens when the rich, educated type marries the young, age-inappropriate, less educated “gold-digger” type? Does that marriage have longevity?
What do you think? Any ideas you’d like to share on this issue?