How College Has Changed the American Marriage


For the first time in 50 years, marriage has become more weighted in favor of women -- at least as far as educational attainment is concerned. According to an examination of U.S. Census data performed by the Pew Research Center, 21% of married women in 2012 were more highly educated than their husbands, compared to 20% of men who find themselves in a similar marital situation.

Pew notes that for couples tying the knot in 2012, 27% of the women were marrying a man with less education than themselves, while only 15% of men married women with a lower level of education than they had attained.

Women have overtaken men at obtaining a college degree
Women have become more likely to go to college than men over the past two decades, as the study notes. While men received nearly 470,000 college degrees in 1981, women earned only 465,000. Ten years later, the tide had turned, and female college graduates accepted over 590,000 diplomas compared to the 504,000 handed out to male grads. In 2011, only 734,000 men took home a sheepskin, versus nearly 982,000 women.

The Bureau of Labor Statisticshas taken notice of this phenomenon, as well. When it released its latest Consumer Expenditure Survey last September, it changed its methodology to reflect the highest level of education attained by any member of a household, rather than its historical use of a "reference person" -- usually a male head of household. This reflected data showing that, during the years 1996 to 2010, wives had surpassed husbands in educational attainment.

Does more education = more money? Not really
Wives may be more educated, but that doesn't mean that they are bringing home more money. Pew notes, of the couples who married in 2012, 58% of the women who married men with less education than themselves had lower salaries than their spouses, while only 39% made more money than their husband.

The study doesn't go into why this might be, but income inequality very likely plays a part. According to a very intriguing graphic released by the Census Bureau, women in 2010 still made only $0.74 for every $1.00 a man earned -- a negligible improvement from 1940, when women earned $0.62 for every dollar paid to a male worker.

Things may be looking up, however: In 2012, the Census Bureaunoted women earned $0.77 for each $1.00 made by a man, quite an improvement from the 2010 estimate.

Still, getting a college degree appears to be a plus for romance. Persons with a high school diploma -- or those that never get that diploma – are unlikely to marry at all, with less than 50%finding that special someone and making it legal. When it comes to boosting your chances of success, a college degree seems to be the answer -- in both the job market and affairs of the heart.

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  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 9:57 AM, Opinion123 wrote:

    This holds true in my house. I have a college degree and my husband does not. He is in the process of earning his degree. We are both smart people, we should took different paths.

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Amanda Alix

Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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