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Why College Graduates Have Happier, Longer Marriages

Divorce rates love and marriage

Better educated, healthier marriages

Last week, the 2010 edition of the “State of Our Unions” report was released by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.

The study looked at data from three nationally representative surveys between 1972 and 2008. Overall, it painted a pretty grim picture for the state of marriage in the U.S.

57 percent of middle Americans (defined as having a high school but not college degree) say they are “happy” in their marriage, down from 68 percent in the 1970′s. The divorce rate in the first 10 years of marriage for this segment of the population is 37 percent.

But one group is getting stellar, rising marriage ratings: The “highly-educated” group, defined as those with at least a college degree, seem to be faring well overall, compared to the rest of the country.

Only 11 percent of college grads get divorced, dropping from 15 percent in the 1970′s. And 69 percent said they were happily married.

When asked if they agreed with the statement, “Marriage has not worked out for most people I know,” 43 percent of middle Americans and 17 percent of highly-educated ones said “yes.”

The researchers on the project say that this represents a widening gap in our country between the privileged (who reap the benefits of stable marriages) and middle America, which is “devolving,”  and they seem to attribute it to a disintegration in values.

The whole thing has a social conservative slant to it that I’m uncomfortable with, though. You can’t argue with the data, but it’s the interpretation I don’t buy. Declining marriage satisfaction and increased divorce seems more about tough financial times, overworked families with too little support in the form of childcare and healthcare, families that are isolated and overwhelmed — not people who are morally compromised. And education clearly doesn’t lead to stronger marriages, it’s a correlation, not a cause in this equation.

I don’t think “values” is the issue.  What do you think?

Image: flickr/seanmcgrath

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