Higher Education, Higher Income Couples Less Likely to Have Marital Problems

Ever wondered what impact, if any, secular education and employment have on a marriage? New research suggests there is a link — American women with a B.A. or M.A. tend to hold on to their Mrs. titles more often than their less educated counterparts. For the rest, divorce is more likely to become the norm, so say a number of experts and studies.

“The higher the educational and occupational level, the higher the income, and the less likely you are to divorce,” says William V. D’Antonio, a sociologist at the Catholic University of America. “Kids who drop out of high school and get married very quickly suffer from the strains of not being emotionally mature and not having the income to help weather the difficulties of marriage,” adds D’Antonio.

“Those who stick it out to earn a degree carry that level of drive and commitment far longer after the honeymoon is over. Marriage is more difficult today than it was in the past,” says David Popenoe, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. “Couples who excel in one area probably excel in others areas, too. And people who are high school dropouts probably have a higher propensity to drop out of marriage.”

Another contributing factor is that educated women’s attitudes about divorce have shifted dramatically. Steven P. Martin, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, who has written about women and divorce, indicated that three decades ago, about 30 percent of women who graduated from college says it should be harder to get a divorce. Today, 65 percent expressed the same attitude.

“The way we used to look at marriage was that if women were highly educated, they had higher earning power, they were more culturally liberal and people might have predicted less marriage among them,” says Martin. “What’s becoming more powerful is the idea that economic resources are conducive to stable marriages. Women who have more money or the potential for more money are married to men who have more stable income.”

Divorce rates seem to rise and fall with the happiness in the marriage and that in turn takes us back to the benefits of a higher education. According to Popenoe, the percentage of spouses who are in “very happy” marriages has fallen among those without a college education, while rising or remaining unchanged among better-educated couples. Degreed couples tend to share intellectual interests and the partitioning of household roles. And since they are more likely to earn more, they struggle less with one of the biggest causes of divorce —” money.

Education’s influences on job stability and career growth also tend to solidify marriage and family. Statistics compiled by an Ellwood and Jencks research study found that 92 percent of children whose families make more than $75,000 a year live in two parent households. On the other hand, only 20 percent of children live with two parents in families earning less than $15,000.

Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank, sees higher education as a stabilizing force, an outcrop of today’s caste system. In her book Marriage and Caste in America, she notes that middle-class kids who grow up with two biological parents are socialized for success. They earn better grades in school, latch on to higher-paying jobs, and commit to marriage.

In a purely practical sense, couples with a higher level of education tend to more thoroughly examine the costs and benefits of entering into marital vows.What’s more, these benefits often go beyond the monetary, encompassing such emotional virtues as love, respect, honesty, and even a sense of humor. In planning a family, if one or the other partners desire children, those with a higher education tend to more thoroughly examine such a critically important, life changing issue before saying “I do.” This predisposition to plan ahead — often a trait learned or enhanced in college — often results in smoother relations after marriage and a reduced likelihood of divorce.

About the Author: Alex A. Kecskes is a national award-winning writer with more than 20 years experience in advertising, PR and promotions. He is founder of ak creativeworks, a creative services company and writes regularly for web and print.