NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 23, 2007

The news that 51 percent of all women live without a spouse seems to indicate the growth of the career girl.  But in reality, it's their less educated manicurists or housekeepers who are more frequently living on their own, says Kate Zernike in the New York Times.


  • Among women ages 25 to 34, 59 percent of college graduates are married, according to the Census Bureau, compared with 51 percent of non-college graduates
  • The same is true at older age groups; 75 percent of women ages 35 to 44 have graduated college and are married, while 62 percent without degrees have not. 
  • For those married who are 65 and older, 50 percent have graduated college, whereas 41 percent have not. 

The cause for this, says Zernike, is that while marriage used to be something you did before launching a life or career, now it is seen as something you do after you're financially stable.  The same is true for all classes.  But the less educated may not get there.  The class gap happens in large part because, as Christopher Jencks, a professor of social policy at Harvard, said, "like marries like."

All this leads to a happiness gap, too, says Zernike.  According to the Marriage Project, the percentage of spouses who rate their marriage as "very happy" has dropped among those without a college education, while it has risen or held steady among those better educated.

Source: Kate Zernike, "Why Are There So Many Single Americans?" New York Times, January 21, 2007.

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