The news reports about this Pew Research study focuses on how more college graduates are getting married than non-college graduates, reversing an earlier trend. But there are a number of other curious findings:
For the first time, adults are more likely to wed by the age of 30 if they obtained a bachelor’s degree than the young adults who have not, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. . . .
The situation was more favorable for people without college degrees two decades ago, Fry said. Then, people without college degrees were more likely to get married than their college-educated counterparts. Those without college degrees could rely on the benefits of marriage to offset their lower salaries.
In 1990, 75 percent of 30-year-olds who did not have a college degree were married, a figure outnumbering the 69 percent of college-educated 30-year-olds who were married, according to the Pew study.
But the study now reveals a reversal, showing that the percentage of people with college degrees marrying has slightly eclipsed those without. In 2008, 62 percent of college-educated 30-year-olds were married or had been married, the center found after analyzing American Community Survey data from 2008. In contrast, 60 percent of 30-year-olds without a college degree were married or had been married. . . .
Economic hardships among young men create barriers to marriage, the report said. High school-educated men between 25 and 34 earned less money in 2008, about $32,000 a year on average, a 12 percent decline from $36,300 in 1990. Meanwhile, earnings for college-educated men in the same group rose 5 percent to $55,000 in 2008, up from $52,300 in 1990. (These median annual earnings were adjusted for inflation.)
The declining fortunes can be a detriment to marriage prospects, Fry said, because many people are seeking partners who can provide for a family and who are economically stable.
During the same time period, cohabitation has doubled and has consequently become a more acceptable alternative to marriage, Fry said. Half of those living together are under 35, and more than 80 percent lack a college degree, the study said, citing census data. . . .
[Researcher Sharon] Sassler points out weddings have become so expensive that they are often a status symbol among the college-educated middle class. Modern-day weddings also can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and there is a perception such costly ceremonies are necessary. Couples without a college degree, who may be struggling financially, are often unable to afford it, she said.
“Marriage means something different for the middle class because they have a college degree and better jobs,” Sassler said. “And because now we have expectations on what needs to be in place to be married.”
What other questions are raised by this study? For example, given co-habitation and other evidence of the decline of traditional marriage, why do you think couples think a “costly” wedding ceremony is so “necessary”?