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New report shows marriage isn’t as revered an institution among some communities

LatinaLista — The quickest way to get people all hot and bothered is to change things. We’re seeing it in Washington these days with the healthcare debate. If there could have been a strategy to slowly introduce and implement healthcare reforms, aside from catching people off guard, it wouldn’t have caused the ruckus it is now.


There’s proof of this with the latest Pew Research report analyzing marriage, another most sacred institution in the country — or it used to be.

At one time, marriage was something that every girl aspired to and every guy felt was inevitable. Not anymore.

In the new Pew report,

Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage, researchers found that the grand old institution of marriage has undergone some quite radical changes, right under the noses of all those politicians who continually uphold the institution, at least in public.

The biggest change to the institution of marriage is that there now exists a gender role reversal in who gains from being married:

In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men. In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men than for women.

Those with more education are far more likely than those with less education to be married, a gap that has widened since 1970. Because higher education tends to lead to higher earnings, these compositional changes have bolstered the economic gains from being married for both men and women.

Among U.S.-born 30- to 44- year-olds, women now are the majority both of college graduates and those who have some college education but not a degree. Women’s earnings grew 44% from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men.

The national economic downturn is reinforcing these gender reversal trends, because it has hurt employment of men more than that of women. Males accounted for about 75% of the 2008 decline in employment among prime-working-age individuals (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). Women are moving toward a new milestone in which they constitute half of all the employed. Their share increased from 46.5% in December 2007 to 47.4% in December 2009.

The report also shows that marriage is not a priority for those with more education and for some groups, has diminished considerably:

Black marriage rates, already lower than those of whites in 1970, have dropped more sharply since then, especially for the least educated. Only 33% of black women and 44% of black men were married in 2007.

Although black men and women had higher household income growth than men and women overall, the sharp decline in marriage rates among blacks hindered growth in their incomes. Among black women with high school educations, household incomes actually declined from 1970 to 2007, reflecting a change in the composition of this group from majority married (with the higher incomes that accompany this status) to majority unmarried.

Though Latinos were not included in this report, it’s easy to see that the report’s findings easily apply to Latinos today as well.

While conventional thought is that Latinos revere the institution of marriage more than whites or blacks, the anecdotal truth is that the least educated tend to be parents but not necessarily married.

Within the Latino community, more women are going to college than males and, as always, are sharing the responsibilities of bringing a paycheck home. In fact, that has also changed.

According to the U.S. Census, “Hispanic married couples with children under 18 where both spouses were employed went from 50 percent in 2007 to 43 percent in 2009. The percentage of these couples where only the wife was employed went from 5 percent in 2007 to 8 percent in 2009.”

If there is one thing to be learned from the report, it’s that marriage is an economic benefit when both spouses are working and a labor of love when only one is.

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