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Michael considered fate at 10:47   |   Permalink   |   Post a Comment
The Economist has a new article about the widening "marriage gap"; the slowdown of divorce rates among the well-to-do educated folks and the ever increasing growth of divorces among the poor. The topic matter seems appropriate in the wake of my recent post on private black colleges. While these general trends should not be news in the eye-opening sense (if it is, perhaps that rock you have been living under is a bit too big for your own good) it is still an interesting read and the numbers are sometimes hard to swallow:
There is a widening gulf between how the best- and least-educated Americans approach marriage and child-rearing. Among the elite (excluding film stars), the nuclear family is holding up quite well. Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock. And the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.

At the bottom of the education scale, the picture is reversed. Among high-school dropouts, the divorce rate rose from 38% for those who first married in 1975-79 to 46% for those who first married in 1990-94. Among those with a high school diploma but no college, it rose from 35% to 38%. And these figures are only part of the story. Many mothers avoid divorce by never marrying in the first place. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%.
So why all the divorce? Why get married in the first place? At the end of the day it is a calculated risk that our feeble little human minds are making. The hurdles that a young, poor, unwed person with children faces is extremely high. The opportunity costs that are given up when one marries are somewhat minimal; you can't run around having more babies out of wedlock, you can't hit the clubs all the time, and you might not be able to call yourself a true independant. The opportunity gains are enormous; dual income, more "parent hours" available for the child - which can also help reduce huge child care costs (something I have previously written about) and finally, hard-to-measure but worth-mentioning: peace of mind. From a basal standpoint, marriage is a no-brainer.. (which I realize is a bit of a redundant statement). Evolutionary Psychologists probably wouldn't be surprised by these sorts of conclusions:
Using data from a big annual survey [Mr Lerman of the Urban Institute found that] Mothers who married ended up much better off than mothers with the same disadvantages who did not. So did their children. Among those in the bottom quartile of “propensity to marry”, those who married before the baby was six months old were only half as likely to be raising their children in poverty five years later as those who did not (33% to 60%).
And, while I am soapboxing for those single mothers who are among the working poor, I am equally, if not more interested in seeing their children do well because, afterall, you need to break the cycle sometime. It isn't just the mothers who do better in marriage:
Most children in single-parent homes “grow up without serious problems”, writes Mary Parke of the Centre for Law and Social Policy, a think-tank in Washington, DC. But they are more than five times as likely to be poor as those who live with two biological parents (26% against 5%). Children who do not live with both biological parents are also roughly twice as likely to drop out of high school and to have behavioural or psychological problems. Even after controlling for race, family background and IQ, children of single mothers do worse in school than children of married parents

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