A university education not linked to lower divorce rate for African-American women

A new study conducted by Rutgers University suggests that while a college education is linked to lower divorce rates for white American women, the same is not true for African-American women.

The research, led by Assistant Professor Jeounghee Kim, states that higher education among black American women does not have a strengthening effect on marriage, as it seems to have for many white couples. She said:

“For white Americans, higher education is related to a lower chance of divorce, and this protective effect of education on marriage increased consistently among recent generations. But for African-American women, higher education is not necessarily related to a lower chance of divorce.”

US divorce rates among white women have remained steady since the 1980s, according to the Futurity news website. But the trend has been less stable for African-American women, the site reports.

Assistant Professor Kim discussed possible reasons for higher education not benefitting the marriages of black American women:

“One possibility is that college education does not translate into the higher earnings that would help protect marriage for African-Americans”.

She added:

“Another could be that educational attainment may be insufficient to address the high levels of economic inequality that even well-educated African-Americans experience. Many are the first in their families to have attained a post-secondary education and do not benefit from the cushion of intergenerational wealth possessed by some white families”.

The Assistant Professor said another reason could be the gender gap in African-American educational achievement. There are almost twice as many female African-American graduates than male graduates. Kim reflected:

“Well-educated white women may still have power to select an equally well-educated mate. Then, there may be a synergy factor—higher incomes, better and healthier lives, smarter kids—that helps sustain their marriage.”

The study examined groups of white American and African-American women in five year marriage cohorts from 1975 to 1979, ending in 1995 to 1999.


Photo by  jarnott via Flickr under a creative commons license

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