What College Degree Is Most Valuable, BS, MS, or MRS?

In high school I knew some girls who wanted to find a husband at college. We made fun of them by joking that they didn’t want a BA degree, but a MRS degree instead.  But in hindsight it isn’t the worst idea for anyone to go to college to look for marital bliss.  That is because education is highly correlated with successful marriage and a college degree is even more important for men who want to get married than for women.

Recent Census Bureau data show that college-educated parents are more likely to get married and stay married than less educated Americans.  Divorce is much lower among college graduates than among those with less education.  Almost 9 in 10 college-educated parents of kids under age 18 are married and living with their kids.  In contrast, only 64% of high-school parents who dropped out are married.  cb13-199_families

The overall marriage rate has been going down, but this is largely because low-education, low-income Americans have much lower marriage rate than in earlier decades.  As a result, over 40 percent of births in America are to unmarried women today.

Part of the problem that is causing the marriage rate to decline is the fact that American men don’t find women who earn more (and are more educated) attractive and American women are less attracted to men who earn less (and are less educated).  Thus, high status women and low status men find themselves unmarriageable.

women overwhelmingly choose men who earn more than they do. Research suggests that when women earn more than their husbands, they often feel embarrassment and resentment towards their spouse, and become significantly more likely to initiate divorce (in the contemporary U.S., divorces are overwhelmingly initiated by women).

This “assortative mating” has strongly contributed to a situation where wealth and opportunity have been “hoarded” in the top quintile of society — leading to stagnating social mobility and rising inequality.

However, the situation may ultimately prove unsustainable because even as women have become increasingly educated, are increasingly employed, and are earning more than they have in the past, the opposite trends are taking root for men. They are growing less likely to graduate college, to be employed, to live independently, etc. This has led to a situation where women are forced to compete ever more intensely with one-another for an ever-diminishing pool of acceptable men.

Faced with a shortage of men who earn as much or more than themselves, women are increasingly opting out of marriage altogether rather than “marrying down.” More women are also exploring non-heterosexual relationship arrangements — especially in communities where the shortage of acceptable men is particularly acute. Collectively, these dynamics have created a growing class of unmarriageable (and often resentful) young men, colloquially referred to as incels.

The erosion of taboos on out-of-wedlock births, adultery, and divorce also seem to be far more destabilizing… “Broken homes” are tied to all sorts of negative mentalphysicalemotional, and socio-economic outcomes; their prevalence is correlated with regional rates of crime and poverty.

Studies have also shown that married people say they are happier than single people.  This is partly due to selection bias because nobody wants to marry a grump, but it may also be partly causal.  And married men earn more money than single men.  One study attributed it to married men working harder, but employers might also discriminate somewhat against single men.

Marriage also pays off economically because 2-parent families have more economies of scale in home production because they can share more resources with more people living in one house.  Divorce directly causes a lot of poverty because of the need to pay rent for two houses instead of one and smaller households are simply less efficient because it is harder to share things like vehicles, TVs, and internet services between separate households whereas the whole point of a household is to share with other household members.

Education is correlated with all sorts of benefits that are not directly related to the subjects taught in school.  Educated people are more likely to get married, less likely to get divorced, and educated people are healthier and live longer.

Posted in Labor

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