Marriage advice! Don’t you just love it? (Not really.) But don’t you just love being told that you’re too fat, old, unattractive, bad in bed, corny, angry, bitter, skanky, virginal, black, or female to love? Because that’s what society would like you to believe. But there’s something that just doesn’t add up.

Sure, we could all turn ourselves into hot-bodied “10s” and get Stepford Wife-style implants to suppress things like desire, agency, and opinion, but I have a feeling – just a tiny one – that we’d still be single because the economy sucks and we all flunked remedial Algebra in college.

Author Ralph Richard Banks caused a stir last year when he revisited the controversial notion that “marriage is for white people.” But a recent Time magazine article has a counter for that. Using U.S. Census data (and the collapse of the marriage of actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes as backdrop), the publication learned that marriage is less “for white people” than it is “for rich, educated people.”

From Time:

Overall, divorce rates are actually falling. And among the well-educated and wealthy who marry after the age of 26, they’re falling quite dramatically. The vast majority of American marriages between two people like Cruise and Holmes make it to the 10-year mark. (Theirs lasted six.) About 30% of people in Cruise’s demographic — white American men between the ages of 40 and 49 (Cruise’s age when Holmes filed for divorce) —  have ever been divorced, according to the most recent (2009) Census figures. And half of them had remarried. About 12 percent of those guys had then divorced again. That is, 24 percent of fortysomething white guys’  second marriages had failed.

Now adding to the list of things that are better if you are flush with cash (like food, housing, clothing and transportation), you can now add “wedded bliss” to the list. But even if you aren’t rolling in the dough (just yet), another key indicator to if you’ll ever tie the knot is your education level. People who finish college are more likely to have successful marriages – no matter the race.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Across the board, college-educated people had lower divorce rates than people with less education. Ms. Stevenson suggests that might be because college educated couples go into marriage with a different set of expectations.

“They’re less likely to approach their marriages as sources of financial stability and they’re more likely to approach them as a source of personal fulfillment,” she says.

And the stats just keep getting better for those economically advanced brainiacs. Also from Time, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that 81 percent of college graduates who married in the 1980s at the age of 26 or older were still married two decades later.

The divorce rate is actually falling for those leading in our better educated and financed classes, countering the common misconception that, perhaps, black people and the poor (and black people who happen to be poor) can simply marry themselves out of their troubles. But unemployment, low income and low education seem to have a lot more bearing on whether or not you and your sweetheart make it than by simply being hitched – for better or impoverished worse.

Congressional Republicans pushed federally financed programs meant to increase marriage among the poor in hopes that putting a ring on it would lift families out of poverty, but it seems that money might have been better spent on sending the poor to trade schools and community college then helping them find jobs.

It seems just throwing around marriage without a plan for educational and economic advancement is sitting up countless poor people to fail, not just economically, but in their romantic lives as well. While marriage counseling seemed to help white, middle-class couples who had the time and the income to take advantage of these courses, the results were negligible for poorer couples who couldn’t afford the classes – as in, they couldn’t pay for them if they charged and couldn’t afford to lose time at work or with their families if they were free.

Then there was this flop in the form of the Building Healthy Families program where many couples who took the classes actually found themselves breaking up.

From Mother Jones:

Take the Building Healthy Families program, which targeted unmarried but romantically involved couples who were either new parents or expecting a baby. The program, tested in Baltimore and seven other cities, offered participants many weeks of marriage education classes that focused on improving their relationships with the hopes that this would also help their children. Three years later, researchers reported that the program had produced precisely zero impact on the quality of the couples’ relationships, rates of domestic violence, or the involvement of fathers with their children. In fact, couples in the eight pilot programs around the country actually broke up more frequently than those in a control group who didn’t get the relationship program. The program also prompted a drop in the involvement of fathers and the percentage who provided financial support.

So what can bring you love might not have anything to do with how great you hair looks right now or what great maternal skills you have or if you’re a guy who’s a “traditionalist.”  Whether or not you stay together forever or watch your relationships die in a fire of scorched Earth glory may come down to brain and pocketbook power.

It seems love is just an impossible advanced degree in calculus and a winning lottery ticket away.

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  • Chris Green

    Is it really because of the economic wealth of the college degree that makes for better and longer marriages or does it stem from the fact that those college educated folks paticipated in many social activities during college which included the ability to enhance social skills, met alot of people, developed relationships with peple, and gained vast experience in dating relationships from dating folks in college?

    There are a lot of people who went to college, graduated, and got a great job, but are not married. Some did not engage in vast social activities that allowed them to develop relationships. I would love to read the articles used and read the research’s samping protocols and see what kind of social personalities the peopl used in the studie were.

    Lastly, we have to be careful with using statistics. Althrough the sources quoted are very credible, it is always a concern because a lot of journalists in magazines only take the information that supports their arguement and have never read the actual research article they are using. Many of times, I have found the article they used and discovered that the social researchers arguments were not the same as the journalists. To me, the best approach to knowing if you have a good one or the “the one” is to not listen to outside voices or sources, focus on the relationship that you currently have and make the best of it. Make the decisions that you think are best for your individual relationship. If they turn out to be the wrong choices, learn from them, grow from them, make the adjustments. But let’s not rely so much on outside voices looking in in carrying out our relationships.

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  • Wong Chia Chi

    Thank you for this. You can’t put a marriage on a resume so how can getting married help keep people out of poverty? I get the idea that two can live as cheaply as one and shared income helps people bear financial burdens. But if two undereducated, low income, broke people marry it’s just barely helping, at best they can survive in poverty, not thrive and certainly not raise a family. Two people cannot raise a family today on minimum wage unless they have some kind of assistance which being married they probably won’t qualify for. And the biggest thing that breaks up marriages/relationships is financial stress. Two broke people in love can quickly become two broke people in hate.

    And so what the black community had more marriages before the civil rights movement! I’m so tired of hearing that. Weren’t we still poor then because of bullshit like segregation and institutional discrimination? That’s why our community is disproportionately poor today, despite the strides we’ve made. More needs to be done to address the causes and effects of poverty but employers don’t want to pay living wages. They shirk their obligations and pass the bill onto the tapayers who then turn around and blame the victims. Our profits and productivity have increased but our minimum wage hasn’t. The cost of living has gone way way up, but the wages have stayed the same. And people wonder why their is an achievement/income gap and less social mobility? GTFOH

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