But if later marriage has been a boon for the college educated, the same cannot be said for Middle Americans—the more than 50% of young adults who have a high-school diploma and maybe some college, but not a bachelor’s degree.
In fact, a key part of the explanation for the struggles of today’s working and lower middle classes in the U.S. is delayed marriage. When the trend toward later marriage first took off in the 1970s, most of these young men and women delayed having children, much as they had in the past. But by 2000, there was a cultural shift. They still put off their weddings, but their childbearing—not so much. Fifty-eight percent of first births among this group are now to unmarried women.
Among college grads today, only 12% of first births are outside marriage. For high-school dropouts, who tend to be the poorest population, 83% of first births are outside marriage, the CDC data show.
Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute asserts that women in their 20’s should seek stability in marriage before childbirth. WSJ’s Wendy Bounds asks why.
If postadolescent mothers and fathers were simply marrying each other a year or two after the arrival of their bundle of joy and remaining together, these trends might not be so troubling. But that’s not what’s happening. Many unmarried mothers in their 20s are living with their baby’s father when they give birth. But about two-fifths of those couples break up before their child’s fifth birthday; that’s three times the rate for married couples of their age.