NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 16, 2006

We are now a nation of separate and unequal families not only living separate and unequal lives but also, and more worrisome, destined for separate and unequal futures, says Kay Hymowitz, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute. The old-fashioned married-couple-with-children model is doing quite well among college-educated women. It is primarily among lower-income women with only a high school education that it is in poor health.

Forty-five years ago, there was only a small difference in the way American women went about the whole marriage-and-children question; just about everyone first tied the knot and only then delivered the baby. That all changed in the decades after the 1960s.

According to Hymowitz:

  • By 1980, the percentage of divorced college-educated mothers more than doubled, to 12 percent -- about the same percentage as divorced mothers with a high school diploma or with some college degree; for high school drop-outs, the percentage increased to 15 percent.
  • For the next decade, the proportion of college-educated moms filing for divorce stopped increasing, and, by 1990, it started going down; this was not the case for the least educated mothers, who continued on a divorce spree for more than 10 years.
  • Starting in 1980, Americans began to experience a widening Marriage Gap that has reached dangerous proportions; as of 2000, only 10 percent of mothers with a college degree or higher were living without husbands compared with 36 percent of mothers who have between nine and 14 years of education.

One possible explanation for the gap is that educated women know that they'd better marry if they want their children to succeed academically, which is increasingly critical to success in the labor market, says Hymowitz.

Source: Kay S. Hymowitz, "The Marriage Gap," Dallas Morning News, March 12, 2006.


Browse more articles on Government Issues