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First, "highly educated Americans are embracing a pro-marriage mindset even as Middle Americans are losing faith in marriage."
...marriage is in trouble among so-called "Middle Americans," defined as the 58% of adults who have a high school diploma ... no four-year college degree.
...trends in non-marital childbearing, divorce and marital quality in Middle America increasingly resemble those of the poor, many of whose marriages are fragile. However, among the highly educated and affluent, marriage is stable and appears to be getting even stronger - yet more evidence of America's "marriage gap."
The "marriage gap" also accompanies a corollary "faith gap," as the upper-class now attend church more often than middle-class Americans. Another recently study by NMP concluded that "across America's major racial and ethnic groups ... shared religious activity - attending church together and especially praying together - is linked to higher levels of relationship quality."
The logic is not surprising. Religious people consistently report higher levels of happiness and stability, as do married people, and religious people are more likely to marry and remain married. It's a virtuous circle. Decrease either the religion or marriage components of the equation and you're certain to produce a decrease in happiness and stability.
The retreat from marriage in Middle America cuts deeply into the nation's hopes and dreams as well. For if marriage is increasingly unachievable for our moderately educated citizens--a group that represents 58 percent of the adult population (age 25-60)--then it is likely that we will witness the emergence of a new society. For a substantial share of the United States, economic mobility will be out of reach, their children's life chances will diminish, and large numbers of young men will live apart from the civilizing power of married life.
This retreat is also troubling because highly educated Americans (defined here as having at least a bachelor's degree) have in recent years been largely unaffected by the tidal wave of family change that first hit the poor in the 1960s and has since moved higher into Middle America. Indeed, highly educated Americans, who make up 30 percent of the adult population, now enjoy marriages that are as stable and happy as those four decades ago. There is thus a growing "marriage gap" between moderately and highly educated America.5 This means that more affluent Americans are now doubly privileged in comparison to their moderately educated fellow citizens--by their superior socioeconomic resources and by their stable family lives.