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Traditional Marriage: No Longer the Norm?

It comes as no surprise that the institution of marriage has changed over recent years. While many people's marriages end in divorce, some individuals are choosing not to marry at all. A study conducted by the National Marriage Project reveals that 44 percent of those with high school educations are having children outside of marriage.

Researchers say these are not "teenage mother" situations. Rather, half of these couples are living together in committed relationships. The rate of unmarried people having children has tripled since the 1970s.

So, why is marriage falling out of favor? Brad Wilcox, the head of the National Marriage Project, says that one factor for high school educated parents is stagnate salaries for workers who do not have college degrees. In the past, young men could obtain well-paying factory jobs after high school and make a good living. Wilcox says this is no longer the case, making these men less desirable as husbands.

Wilcox's research has revealed that divorce has increased among the working class while decreasing for those who hold college degrees. He also points out that the recession has put further stress on those holding lower-wage jobs.

While Wilcox admits that having children outside of marriage has become socially acceptable, he argues that marriage is still valuable. He points to the fact that unmarried parents have a two times greater likelihood of breaking up by the time their child is five.

How exactly is marriage changing? The national Marriage Project found that divorce rates have dropped for the college educated but rose for those with only a high school diploma. Meanwhile, college-educated couples are more likely to report they are happy in their marriages. Finally, the rate for nonmarital births among the college educated is six percent, compared to 44 percent for those with a high school education.

Source: NPR "Unmarried With Kids: A Shift In The Working Class," Jennifer Ludden, 6 December 2010

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