When I started secondary school in 1997, I was one of the few people in a class of 30-odd people whose parents were still happily married. Why is this? An annual report by The National Marriage Project, under the direction of W. Bradford Wilcox, had the aim “to analyse the social and cultural forces shaping contemporary marriage, and to identify strategies to increase marital quality and stability” in America.
The report found that middle-class American marriages are in trouble. ‘Middle Americans’ (58 percent of the population of America) are those with a high-school degree, but not a college degree. Among this group, rates of non-marital childbearing and divorce are rising and marital happiness is falling. Yet, among the wealthy, marriage is stable and getting stronger, but marriage is remaining weak for the poor.
Over the last four decades, moderately educated Americans have seen their rates of divorce and nonmarital childbearing rise. Those rates mean they have got to the point where their family lives look similar to the least-educated Americans (defined as having no high-school degree) who make up 12 percent of the adult population aged 25–60. On the opposite side of the scale, marriage trends among highly educated Americans have largely stabilised since the 1970s.
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Using reports such as the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994–2008), the researchers found that in the 1970s, around 69 percent of moderately and highly educated married adults indicated they were “very happy” in their marriages, whereas only 59 percent of married adults with the least education reported they were very happy. By the 2000s, 69 percent of highly educated married adults still reported that they were very happy, but only 57 percent of moderately educated married adults and 52 percent of the least educated reported the same. From the 1970s to the 1990s, divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage became less likely for the highly educated (15 percent down to 11 percent), more likely for the moderately educated (36 up to 37 percent), and less likely for the least educated (46 down to 36 percent).
While there are concerns over the rate of divorce in America, in the UK it seems to be a different story. A report released in 2010 by the Office for National Statistics found that less people were getting divorced. For the fifth consecutive year in 2008, divorce numbers had dropped, and there were 106,763 children aged under 16 who were in families where the parents got divorced – 29 percent lower than a decade earlier. However, for the fourth consecutive year, both men and women in their late 20s had the highest divorce rates in England and Wales, the BBC wrote. This could be similar findings as the moderately educated in America, in which they divorced more in the first ten years of marriage.
How to Decrease Your Risk of Divorce (% Chance)
- Earn over $50,000 annually (-30%)
- Be college educated (-25%)
- Have a baby 7 months into marriage (-24%)
- Marry when you are over 25 years of age (-24%)
- Have a religious affiliation (-14%)
So in America, as R.R. Reno points out in his article ‘Divorce and Statistics’, “If you’ve got a college degree, a decently paying job, haven’t been knocked up, your parents are still married, and you go to church, then you’re not at all likely to get divorced.” Not many issues to factor in then for the Americans or Britain’s.
Despite the findings of the American report, it ends by saying that since 1976, the survey Monitoring The Future has found that teenagers of both sexes still desires “a good marriage and family life.” Should this be what we’re taking away from the report for America and the UK? After all, teenagers are the future and despite having seen the decline in successful marriages, they still desire marriage in their lives.