can education level predict divorce

How Education Impacts Divorce

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Education forms a big part of most people’s lives in the United States. We go through a decade-plus of compulsory schooling, then a substantial majority opt for college. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2019, 66.2% of high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities. And at least one person believes education impacts divorce and divorce rates.

Eli J. Finkel is a psychologist and professor at Northwestern University in Chicago. He conducted extensive field and laboratory research on the subject of marriage. You could say he wrote the book on the subject. Because he did. Namely the recent tome, The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work. In his work, he investigates the institution throughout history, up through the modern-day.

Promoting his book, Finkel spoke to Business Insider magazine, where he focused on the one type of union he considers the most likely to end in divorce. Through his research, he believes that marriages between people with less education are more likely to break down. He says:

“[P]eople who don’t have a high school degree, people who are relatively uneducated have a higher divorce rate than ever, and a lower marriage rate, and when they are married, the marriages tend not to be as satisfying.”

On the other hand, he found, “[A]mong people who are college-educated, the divorce rates have actually plummeted since about 1980 [where the number peaked].”

Related Reading: 6 Back to School Tips Divorced Dads Need to Know

What This Means For You

Does this mean that you’re doomed to divorce if you have less education? Not necessarily.

Even Finkel himself doesn’t believe this means couples with less education must ultimately divorce, or that those with college degrees will live in wedded bliss forever. There are plenty of examples of doctors with crumbling marriages and high school dropouts who live happily ever after.

Finkel clarifies what he means, saying:

“What I think is going on is it’s really difficult to have a productive, happy marriage when your life circumstances are so stressful and when your day-to-day life involves, say three or four bus routes in order to get to your job.”

From his comments, it looks to boil down to economics rather than just education. And financial woes certainly often have a negative impact on marriage and marital stability. Couples frequently cite money trouble and the strain it causes relationships as a trigger behind the divorce. It’s far from the only one, but it pops up in many cases.

But again, there isn’t a 100% correlation. Not every college graduate lands a high-paying job. People with advanced degrees also often worry about money. And there are plenty of folks with less education who make a good living.

More than anything, this study reveals a larger pattern. Not every situation automatically fits into the mold, but enough do that it’s worth consideration. Marriage is already tough; this is simply one factor that often makes it tougher. Finkel simply believes his research shows illustrates how education presents additional challenges and plays into divorce.

Related Reading: How to File for Divorce in Washington

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