Women, Marriage and College: Higher Education No Longer Prevents Weddings

What Women Really Think
April 11 2012 6:20 PM

College-Educated Women No Longer Risk Being "Old Maids"

Study finds that women who go to college still get married

Yuri Arcus / Shutterstock.com

According to a new study by NYU sociologists Paula England and Jonathan Bearak prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families, college educated women are now as likely to get married as their less-educated peers—even if the weddings happen in a somewhat older age range. These findings contradict the previously prevailing idea that women who pursued higher education were more likely to delay finding a mate past some stereotypical “marriageable age” while studying and building demanding careers. The study reports that, “as late as 1950, a quarter of white female college graduates 40 years of age had never married, compared to compared to only 7 percent of their counterparts without a college degree.”  The latter category includes education levels ranging from less-than high school to some college.

England and Bearak explain the new paradigm:  


[Now] by age 40, the well educated have caught up with the less educated and even surpassed them in the percent that have married. Thus, ultimately the more educated are as likely or even more likely to marry as any other group. 

Of course, this news may not matter much to those who don’t hold the institution of marriage in particular esteem as a life-goal, but even so, the findings are encouraging. For one thing, affirming that women can earn Bachelor’s degree or higher without sacrificing the potential to get hitched should finally put to rest any lingering notion that a young woman needs to choose between the two early-on. The study also shows that well-educated women (i.e. women who get married later in life) are less likely to get divorced, owing in part to the fact that young marriages demonstrate an increased likelihood of ending.

In terms of race, the delayed marriage boost that college education produces is far more pronounced for black women than for white women. While “black women have lower odds of ever marrying than white women … getting a college education raises ultimate marriage rates by the 30s and 40s much more substantially for blacks than whites.” Black women who don’t complete high school are far less likely to get married than any other group.

If nothing else, this study suggests that family values conservatives like Rick Santorum should stop blathering about the snobbishness of college—if he wants America to have more traditional families, it’s becoming a prerequisite.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 10:23 AM From Fringe to Mainstream: How We Learned to Panic About Terrorists Crossing the Border
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
The Vault
Sept. 18 2014 9:57 AM “The Sun Never Sets Upon the British Empire,” Explained in GIF by an Old Children’s Toy
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Sept. 18 2014 8:53 AM The Other Huxtable Effect Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 10:07 AM “The Day It All Ended” A short story from Hieroglyph, a new science fiction anthology.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?