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College educated more likely to marry

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Kai Ryssdal: There was a long stretch in this country, where if you didn’t have a college degree, you were more likely to get married. Some new data from the Census Bureau has turned that on its head. Now it’s college-educated couples who are more likely to say “I do.” Yet another leftover from the Great Recession, as Janet Babin reports.

Janet Babin: The study found that college-educated people are more likely to tie the knot before turning 30 than their less-educated peers. The reversal has to do with the economy.

Richard Fry at the Pew Research Center wrote the study.

Richard Fry: It’s thought that possibly the deteriorating labor market position of young, less-educated men has made it so that young women can’t find suitable partners.

Suitable? That’s code for “breadwinners.” Women apparently do look at the wallet when choosing a mate, and the downturn has cleaned out the economic prospects for blue-collar men more than for everyone else.

Economist Tim Smeeding runs the Poverty Institute at the University of Wisconsin. He says the usual routes from high school to the middle class used to be construction and manufacturing.

Tim Smeeding: And manufacturing employment is way down. Construction, we are overbuilt; we don’t need more construction. What’s left? Personal services. Cutting people’s grass. Working at a retail establishment.

All jobs that pay notoriously low wages. Marriage gives low-wage earners a boost, so the decline could have dire consequences down the road.

Here’s Richard Fry with Pew.

Fry: Now not only is the labor market sort of difficult for them, now they’re less likely to enter into marriage, so they don’t get that economic advantage that comes from marriage.

Fry says married people tend to have more wage earners in the household, and there’s also evidence that marriage makes men more productive.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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