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.”
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.