In it’s January, 2010 Report “Women, Men, And The New Economics Of Marriage,” the Pew Research Center highlighted an important trend in marriage among Americans ages 30-44. While women in the 1970’s gained more economically by marrying, the trend is now reversed: Men are now the ones who have more to gain economically from marriage. Why? A college degree.
40 years ago, men held college degrees at a higher rate than women, but now women excel men at degree completion. Both genders earned degrees at approximately the same rate in the early 1980’s, and since then increases in degrees earned by men have remained relatively small. The Pew report noted that this is the first cohort measured to show such a reversal based on education. Beyond the kudos for the gains made by women, the report adds some concerning facts about the relationship among marriage, earnings, and education level.
While Americans, on the whole, are marrying less, trends can be seen through the lens of educational attainment. College graduates, who earn the most, are more likely today to be married than those with less education, while those without a degree are marrying less. In 1970, both degreed and non-degreed Americans were equally likely to wed. The report also notes that college graduates have “fortified their financial advantage over less educated Americans because of their greater tendency to be married.” Less educated individuals are not only less likely to marry, but are also more likely to be divorced.
The group poised to suffer most from these trends? Young men, because they now represent those who do not hold a college degree. Because they comprise most who do not hold a degree, they are less likely to marry, and will be more subject to job instability and fluctuations in the job market. Males comprised 75% of the job losses in the 2008 economic downturn, prompting some to coin the term “mancession.” This Pew Center study underscores the later effects of the lagging college graduation rates for males in the United States.
Jeffrey Ludovici, M.A., is a national-level higher education consultant based in Pittsburgh. He has worked with students, families, colleges, and other professionals for more than 10 years. He specializes in understanding why students can end up doing poorly in college, as well as what can be done to address the issues.