How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege?

How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege? By Claire Miller.

Marriage, which used to be the default way to form a family in the United States, regardless of income or education, has become yet another part of American life reserved for those who are most privileged.

Fewer Americans are marrying over all, and whether they do so is more tied to socioeconomic status than ever before. In recent years, marriage has sharply declined among people without college degrees, while staying steady among college graduates with higher incomes. …

A big reason for the decline: Unemployed men are less likely to be seen as marriage material. …

As marriage has declined, though, childbearing has not, which means that more children are living in families without two parents and the resources they bring. …

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place — especially financial stability. For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen.

College graduates are more likely to plot their lives methodically — vetting people they date until they’re sure they want to move in with them, and using birth control to delay childbirth until their careers are underway.

Less educated people are more likely to move in with boyfriends or girlfriends in a matter of months, and to get pregnant at a younger age and before marriage. This can make financial and family stability harder to achieve later on.