Good News/Bad News on Marriage

What Women Really Think
Oct. 7 2010 4:11 PM

Good News/Bad News on Marriage

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A new study finds a remarkable turnaround in the marriage prospects of college-educated women. A generation ago a college degree actually reduced a woman’s likelihood of getting married. That was the result of many causes. One was that women traditionally marry men with equal or greater education, so a college-educated woman had a smaller pool to pick from. Another is that during the young-marriage frenzy of a previous generation, a woman who graduated from college might have been taking herself out of that early-mating slipstream. But today the good news is that college confers no marriage penalty on women. More good news is that a college education before marriage acts as a buffer against divorce.

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The report also finds that delaying marriage has become common among those without a college education. Normally, this would sound encouraging-very early marriages are less likely to last. But what’s worrisome is that the report labels this section "Marriage Delayed or Marriage Foregone? "-wondering if the trend toward later marriage actually reflects a growing trend of no marriage among those with less education. I fear it’s the latter. What the report doesn’t deal with is the fact that unwed motherhood continues apace in this country. Children with unmarried mothers account for nearly 40 percent of births, and we’re not just talking about teen mothers, but women in their 20s. It is clear that marriage has for many become an unattainable goal, but parenthood is something that just happens.

Photograph of a recently wed couple for Wikimedia Commons.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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