Marriage is more linked to college education than ever before

Image: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini
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Around half of Americans these days are getting married—a much lower rate than the peak of 72% in 1960, to be sure, but a good enough percentage that has held pretty steady over the last decade or so. Yet the kinds of people tying the knot have changed.

Twenty-five years ago, among adults aged 25 and older, the marriage rates for groups with college degrees, some college, and only high-school education were all above 60%. The college-educated rate has remained steady—65% with a four-year college degree were married in 2015, according to a new Pew Research analysis of US Census Bureau data.

But that number drops to 55% for people with some college education—and it is now only at 50% for people who do not have education beyond high school.

Shifts in America’s marriage rates have been well-scrutinized by economists, and the conclusions about the link between education and marriage in particular are as follows: First, uncertain political and economic times are making people wary of getting married without first achieving financial stability (like the kind that—one would hope—comes from securing a college degree, and then a partner with that same degreed assurance).

The rise of women in the workforce in the past few decades has also upended the status quo. As Quartz’s Dan Kopf observed last month, there are more educated and economically independent women nowadays, and they’re interested in securing equitable partnerships.

There’s also the fact that more and more Americans are living together and/or raising children with a partner, without going through the formal rite of marriage. Humanity’s oldest institution, as some call it, is now quite conditional.