NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 3, 2006

Marriage is a priority for most Americans -- more than 90 percent of American adults eventually marry -- but these days it may not happen, as it so often did before, in the immediate post-high-school or post-college years, says author Christine B. Whelan.

Marriage rates are increasing among college-educated men and women, even if the marriage age is older:

  • According to the 2006 Current Population Survey data, among 35- to 39-year-old women, 88 percent with advanced degrees have married, compared with 81 percent of women without college degrees.
  • And once married, these smart, successful women are no less likely to have children.

In fact, increased education leads to better marriages and stronger families, says Whelan:

  • College graduates are less likely to divorce -- and more specifically, families with highly educated mothers are half as likely to split, says Steven P. Martin, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland.
  • Looking at marriages that began between 1990 and 1994, Martin found that, of marriages in which the wife had a college education (or more), only 16.5 percent dissolved in the first 10 years, compared with 38 percent in which the wife had only a high-school diploma.

According to a recent Harris Interactive poll:

  • Some 71 percent of men who earn in the top 10 percent for their age groups or who have a graduate degree, said that a woman's career or educational success makes her more desirable as a wife; 68 percent believe that smart women make better mothers. 
  • Not surprisingly, then, 90 percent of high-achieving men say that they want to marry -- or have already married -- a woman who is as intelligent as they are, or more intelligent.

Source: Christine B. Whelan, "Older but Wiser," Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2006.

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