The poor get poorer and the rich get . . . married

By Derek Rogusky | December 8, 2010

The poor get poorer and the rich get . . . married.

The 2010 State of Our Unions report reveals that marriage is disappearing among middle-class or moderately educated Americans (defined as those with a high school diploma but not a four-year college degree), yet is relatively stable among the more highly educated (defined as those with at least a college degree). Among the report’s findings were:

  • Divorce rates are up for moderately educated Americans relative to those who are highly educated.
  • The moderately educated middle is dramatically more likely than highly educated Americans to have children outside of marriage.
  • The children of highly educated parents are now more likely than in the recent past to be living with their mother and father, while children with moderately educated parents are far less likely to be living with both their mother and father.

The report’s editors conclude:

“Today’s retreat from marriage among the moderately educated middle is placing the American Dream beyond the reach of too many Americans. It makes the lives of mothers harder and drives fathers further away from families. It increases the odds that children from Middle America will drop out of high school, end up in trouble with the law, become pregnant as teenagers, or otherwise lose their way. As marriage – an institution to which all could once aspire – increasingly becomes the private playground of those already blessed with abundance, a social and cultural divide is growing. It threatens the American experiment in democracy and should be of concern to every civic and social leader in our nation.”

What about Canada?

While the report focuses on the American situation, there is evidence that a similar marriage gap is developing in Canada. The report’s editor, W. Bradford Wilcox, has done preliminary research based on data from the most recent World Values Survey showing:

  • 78% of Canadian parents aged 25 to 60 with a university degree were married but only 63% of parents without a degree were married.
  • 14% of Canadian parents aged 25 to 60 with a university degree were single parents but 22% of parents without a degree were single parents.
  • 85% of Canadians with a university degree agreed that marriage was still relevant whereas only 70% of those without a university degree agreed.

A Statistics Canada report found that “in 2006, women aged 25 to 49 with a university degree were more likely to be married than other women [whereas] in 1981, the opposite was true.”


The State of Our Unions has been tracking marriage trends in the United States for over a decade and is jointly published by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.

Educate the masses. I'm certain most desire to be married, but may think it is too expensive or aren't willing to commit.

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