Marriage and Education

Consider this:

(Source for graph.)

Question: Is the enormous disparity in divorce rates based on education level relevant to how we think and teach about marriage and divorce in the church?

26 comments for “Marriage and Education

  1. May 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Interesting question. Taken at face value, it would seem that we should teach women to be more educated so their marriage will (statistically) be more stable. What are the possible reasons? Perhaps women marry “better” when they are: smarter, better able to care for themselves, etc. Perhaps they are better spouses?

    I would be interested in an age breakdown within that 15-44 age group. I would guess that the “highly educated” women also tended to marry later in life. And for years it’s been said that very early marriages tend to end in divorce as well.

  2. Julie M. Smith
    May 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Alison, I, too, wondered if we weren’t seeing age-at-marriage as opposed to education-at-marriage.

    Here’s a link to the original report:

    On p73, they break down factors likely to reduce divorce rate and early age and family income both show up.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t find anywhere where it was broken down further, so that we could separate out early-marriage-high-education from early-marriage-low-education.

  3. Suleiman
    May 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Thank you Julie, this is an interesting study.

    I remember a study that showed that the activity rate for children of college-educated LDS women in Utah was higher than those from women who had stopped their education with a high school diploma. Has anyone seen that study? I’d love to have a copy of it.

  4. May 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    I wonder also, if men are less likely to divorce a highly educated woman with a well-paying job.

  5. trod
    May 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    It does appear, at least superficially, intriguing. I wish we had more information on the correlations.

  6. Bob
    May 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    I too think this chart is bad science if taking by itself. It’s also bad science for Mormons.
    When you tell a 15 year old Mormon girl to get an “education”. Do you mean get a “career”, or get your grades up and get into college and find a good husband?
    This chart doesn’t even show for how many of the “highly educated”__it’s their second marriage.

  7. Julie M. Smith
    May 29, 2011 at 6:16 pm


    I agree that this chart may not do everything we want it to do, but I think it is clear if you read the report that there is a demonstrable and significant difference in marriage, divorce, and childbearing patterns in this country based on the mother’s education/income level. I’m curious to consider how that big (and growing) gulf impacts how we think and teach about marriage and family in the church.

    So maybe we could shift the comments from critiquing the chart (although I acknowledge that there is room to do that) to considering the larger issue?

  8. Sally
    May 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Two things come to mind as possible reasons. First, higher education increases delayed gratification abilities – working hard for a future goal. Second, women tend to marry a man with at least their level of education, so their husbands probably have a higher earning power than many of the less educated women. Poor finances place a huge strain on a marriage.

  9. May 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Without a lot more nuance, I see no reason for it to have any impact on us. We already know that we (Mormons) track differently than the wider culture with regard to education — what’s that study that showed that higher education correlated to lower religious activity, except among the Mormons where the most highly educated also tended to be the most active? Unless we can identify what it is about education that may lead to more stable marriages, and also that it — whatever “it” may be — also applies to us, there’s no reason, in my view, to adjust such a fundamental aspect of Mormon belief and life.

    That said, everybody, including women, should get as much education as possible, according to their talents and opportunities.

  10. Bob
    May 29, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Most people I know who have money, have trade or talent__ not an “education”. Attorney, doctor, etc.__ are trades. I left college with a degree, but no trade. I had to join a large corporation, and I learned a trade from them.
    But yes__being wise counts. But I don’t know if one gets wise by getting an education, or one gets an education because he/she is wise.

  11. dangermom
    May 29, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    The book Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age is an interesting analysis of the education/age/divorce thing.

  12. E
    May 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I agree with Ardis; we can’t assume these kind of trends in the broader culture are true in our “peculiar” subculture. But my guess is that the church may have some highly relevant data on this. It would be so interesting to see it!

  13. Jones
    May 29, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I think the church encourages education for it’s own sake. While lessons given in church settings don’t always represent this _with the noted exception of some, including yours Julie_ my upbringing as a Mormon always focused on being a good student and learning as much as possible about the good things of the earth as well as about the gospel of Christ. Challenging oneself to be a good learner was a part of the identity of being a Mormon. In my mind both getting an education and getting married were very high priorities. But they never went hand in hand. And as many friends demonstrated, marriage frequently trumps education. If being better educated _would be nice to know how this is quantified_ increases the chances of a longer-lasting marriage I don’t think the church encourages education for that reason.

  14. May 29, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    “But my guess is that the church may have some highly relevant data on this. It would be so interesting to see it!”

    How many times have I thought this and in regard to how many topics…

  15. Sam Bhagwat
    May 30, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Possibly education is not only proxying for age, it is also proxying for cultural factors also.

  16. Cameron N.
    May 30, 2011 at 12:34 am

    I think it’s easy to read into this stuff and see what you want. It’s so hard to extrapolate cause and effect with all the variables involved, I just don’t know how much these stats tell us.

  17. John
    May 30, 2011 at 2:02 am

    In my experience, those who have the determination to make it through higher education seem to have not only long term vision, but the will and perseverance to see it through. It isn’t always the case, but just a general observation through my twenties and thirties. Oh, and higher education doesn’t mean college. The guys who finished their apprenticeships or otherwise had to get specialized education for their trades display this as well. There are those who go on to improve themselves for the long term and those who still work their high school jobs…

  18. stephen hardy
    May 30, 2011 at 3:27 am

    What else can we read into this? Are divorce rates, in general, down?

  19. May 30, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Trying to track down Mormon divorce rates is tricky. There are some oft quoted statistics but they are typically hopelessly out of date and somewhat problematic. Breaking Mormon divorce down further by education and trade would be helpful. (One complaint I’ve long had with education stats is that they don’t address those with formal trades like master plumber or the like where one doesn’t need a college degree – I’d like to see how a solid trade education affects things)

    I’d tried to track down some rates (in this post) but was largely unsuccessful. Anyone got anything better?

  20. Suleiman
    May 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Ardis, et al.

    What “fundamental aspect of Mormon belief and life” do you think we would be changing? Utah has the highest percentage of working mothers in the United States.

    I also want more information. This study is intriguing. Does education develop characters more fit for marriage? Is the effect economic? What are the affects on the children?

    As we are attempting to create a Zion culture and people, how exactly do we do that? What really should be the role of LDS women and mothers? Should we tell our young women to pursue higher ed. because their marriages are potentially more successful? Should they emphasize professional training or education for “it’s own sake?”

  21. Naismith
    May 30, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    “What “fundamental aspect of Mormon belief and life” do you think we would be changing? Utah has the highest percentage of working mothers in the United States.”

    Why would those two have any relation? I thought that most Mormons are located outside of Utah, and most Utahns are not active LDS?

  22. May 30, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    To say nothing of the fact that we’re talking about marriage and education, not motherhood and employment.

    Suleiman, I meant only that taking this report at face value would suggest that we encourage Latter-day Saints not to marry until they are “highly educated.” That would be a major shift away from encouraging young adult marriages and not postponing families. With marriage and its importance occupying such a prominent place in our rhetoric, placing other goals (even education, and even with the hope of more stable marriages) ahead of prompt marriage and family would require a significant change in our teaching and behavior.

  23. jks
    May 31, 2011 at 10:47 am

    1. I think that the types of women who are socialized to go on to higher education are socialized to choose wisely when picking a husband.
    2. I agree with #8 Sally. Getting education/a degree shows delayed gratification and stick-to-it-ness that translates into more stable, happier marriages. In other words, the same kinds of skills are used in school and in marriage, or even the same types of people do well in both.

    I believe that in the church we have a culture of marriage AND education. They are not mutually exclusive. Girls don’t go on missions as often. How many women actually marry before age 20? Most women can go to college for a couple of years before marriage (at least) and finish after marriage. When I was at BYU in the 90s, the ONLY women who dropped out of school at marriage were people who you felt would have dropped out of school anyway without marriage. Out of my freshman roommates (6 of us) we all graduated from college with a bachelors, we all marriage in the temple from age 20-25, and we are all still married 16-21 years. None of us got a degree in something very career oriented, but we are intelligent, educated, confident and capable. We are all SAHMs with one of us working part-time from home. We all have 4 or 5 kids. We all have husbands who graduated from college.
    This was the culture of our time and our families (5 out of 6 of us came from still married, Mormon parents with middle class values).

  24. Jax
    May 31, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I’m with JKS here. I don’t think marriage and education are mutually exclusive. You can marry young and still gain an education. You can gain a first rate education without ever going to college, and for $5 in late fees at the local library.

    I also don’t see anything in the stats relating to motherhood or careers. Many ‘un-educated’ people have fantastic employment. Many masters degrees have large families. I don’t think the church’s teaching about the importance of family and education mean you have to sacrifice one to gain the other.

  25. Suleiman
    June 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    “You can gain a first rate education without ever going to college, and for $5 in late fees at the local library.”

    Great! We can close the colleges and universities and just pass out library cards.

    Alright, I’m being flippant about Jax’s post, but flippancy seems to be a pattern here at T&S.

    I didn’t see anything about motherhood and careers either. That is why I asked. And the reason I brought it up is that I don’t think religiosity is directly the cause of getting married early in LDS culture. Indirectly perhaps, because the law of chastity demands no hanky-panky before wedlock.

    I don’t think that an emphasis of the positive socio-economic outcomes of an educated demographic will rock the boat as much as some suggest. Granted, some YW may delay marriage a whole 18 months to finish a degree, but I don’t view this a negative. From the last numbers I’ve seen, most LDS kids would have to delay marriage 3-5 years or more to catch up with modern Americans.

  26. June 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Many studies have concluded that women are more likely to initiate the divorce. It’d be interesting to see the intersection between those occurrences and the rise in female college graduates.

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