Followers

Monday, August 22, 2011

Educated More Likely to Have Stable Families


In The Marginalisation of Marriage in Middle America, two sociologists: W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a conservative; and Andrew J. Cherlin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and a liberal, express diverge views on the importance of marriage, but they agree “that children are more likely to thrive when they reside in stable, two-parent homes,” and “that in America today cohabitation is still largely a short-term arrangement, while marriage remains the setting in which adults seek to maintain long-term bonds.”

They found a marriage gap between people with not much more than a high school diploma and the college educated. Indeed, this gap contributes to asnother serious gap - the economic disparity between these two groups.

Wilcox and Cherlin note:
“The fact is that children born and raised in intact, married homes typically enjoy higher quality relationships with their parents, are more likely to steer clear of trouble with the law, to graduate from high school and college, to be gainfully employed as adults, and to enjoy stable marriages of their own in adulthood. Women and men who get and stay married are more likely to accrue substantial financial assets and to enjoy good physical and mental health. In fact, married men enjoy a wage premium compared to their single peers that may exceed 10 percent.”

These claims are borne out by data from 250 peer-reviewed journal articles on marriage and family life in the US and around the world which are the basis of the second report mentioned above: Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences. Released this week and updating two earlier reports of the same name, Why Marriage Matters is co-authored by 18 family scholars from leading institutions and chaired by Professor Wilcox.
College educated Americans are not generally engaged in pushing the sexual revolution to new extremes; they are busy creating what Wilcox and Cherlin call a “neotraditional style of family life”. They “may cohabit with their partners, but nearly all of them marry before having their first child. Furthermore, while most wives work outside the home, the divorce rate in this group has declined to levels not seen since the early 1970s.”

In contrast, working class young adults, who comprise half of the population aged 25 to 34, are defaulting on marriage:


“More and more of them are having children in brittle cohabiting unions. Among those who marry, the risk of divorce remains high. Indeed, the families formed recently in working-class communities have begun to look as much like the families of the poor as of the prosperous. The nation’s retreat from marriage, which started in low-income communities in the 1960s and 1970s, has now moved into Middle America.”

US Demographers Sheela Kennedy and Larry Bumpass suggest that 65 per cent of children born to cohabiting parents will see their parents part by the time they are 12, compared to 24 per cent of the children of married parents. A British report last December found something similar: unmarried couples accounted for 59 per cent of break-ups affecting children up to the age of five, divorces for 20 per cent, and single parents headed 21 per cent of broken families with young children. Even in Sweden, the fabled home of non-traditional happy families, children born to cohabiting couples are 70 per cent more likely to see parents separate by the age of 15, compared to married parents.
 

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