Education, Marriage and Child Wellbeing

Education, Marriage and Child Wellbeing

Education, Marriage and Child Wellbeing

Over the years, there has been a shift in the sequence of marriage and parenthood. Remember the rhyme? 

"First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage...”

Not so - at least anymore. In fact, 57 percent of mothers between the age of 26 and 31 are unmarried when their child is born.

While you may think this is the “new normal,” it isn’t the norm for everyone.

A study by Andrew Cherlin at Johns Hopkins University shows that a college education has become more than a pathway to higher paying jobs. A college education is now a definitive factor in childbearing. Of mothers without a high school diploma, 63 percent of births occur outside of marriage. Among college-educated young women, 71 percent of births occur within marriage.

How does this trend affect children?

Research shows that this set of circumstances creates two distinct paths for children where marriage and education are the deciding factors. When children grow up in a home with their two married parents, they are more likely to experience a stable environment with access to an array of resources and educational opportunities.

In a non-married home, children are less likely to grow up with stability or opportunity to access the same type of resources.

Children from single-parent homes are five times more likely to experience poverty. But, children who grow up with their married parents in low-income homes are at far less risk of being poor.

Children need stability.

But in an interview with the news site, Vox, Cherlin shared his concern about the stability of family lives for children. Cohabiting unions typically break up at higher rates than marriages. About half of all cohabiting couples will either marry or break up within two years. Those who break up will likely create more cohabiting unions - and creating more instability.

If you believe that people with a high school diploma or less are not as likely to want marriage, think again. Katheryn Edin’s research (Promises I Can Keep) with 150 low-income women clearly indicates that these women want marriage, but they have to wait to find the right person to marry. However, getting pregnant is something they can do right away.

Most teens (74%) see marriage and children in their future - in that order. This is according to a June 2014 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancies report.

Clearly, there is a disconnect concerning the significance of marriage and its impact on child well-being. Our society often emphasizes the importance of higher education for young people. It usually fails to address, however, the sequencing for success and the significance of marriage.

There are profoundly different outcomes for children when people attain higher education, work full time, marry and then start families. Their chances of living in poverty drop from 12 percent to 2 percent. Also, the chances of joining the middle class move from 56 percent to 74 percent. Imagine how future generations would be impacted if more people realized the benefits of following this “success sequence.”