Female Education Has Completely Changed Marriage In America

Back in the 1950s, financial security was a huge reason women married. But that’s no longer the case.

In a working NBER paper, Women’s Emancipation Through Education, Fatih Guvenen and Michelle Rendall look at how women’s advancement has dramatically affected marriage and divorce rates.

Women are more educated than ever before, earning more college degrees than men annually. They’re also earning more than ever, slowly closing the wage gap in America.

The first chart shows how the wage gap has steadily closed since the 1950s. The second highlights how women have started to earn more college degrees than men since the 1990s:

NBERWith more earning power, education and stability, women are now waiting later to get married, and they’re more likely to get out of a bad marriage.

These trends create an even higher demand for education among women. Education is insurance against divorce risk, but it also creates more unstable marriages, which in turn increases demand for more education. And since the marriage market is filled with more educated women, it’s more difficult for uneducated women to find a mate — making the marriage market more competitive.

This chart shows how marriage rates have steadily declined since the 1950s, as the number of single Americans have increased. However, the divorce rate has gradually fallen since the 1980s:

NBEROverall, these trends are great for women, bringing us closer to gender equality.

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