On Campus

Women's educations impact families

But perhaps not the way you'd expect

Photo by Victor1558 on Flickr

By 1991, women surpassed men to make up the majority of graduating classes in Canada. By 2006, they earned roughly 60 per cent of degrees, reported Statistics Canada.

The shift inspired questions (hand wringing, really) about whether educated women will choose careers over marriage, leading to the smaller families and the end of civilization as we know it.

Well, women can now relax—depending on where they live. Taken together, two new studies suggest that education is related to marriage rates, but differently than you may currently believe.

In one study, sociologists Paula England and Jonathan Bearak of New York University examined marriage rates for U.S. women. Marriage rates have been under the microscope since the 1950s when it was observed that one quarter of white 40-year-old female college graduates had never married, compared to just seven per cent of their less-educated peers.

England and Bearak’s statistics show, however, that today’s educated women aren’t abandoning marriage, they’re simply delaying it. Female graduates in their 20s are still less likely to be married than less-educated peers, but by age 40, just as many degree-holders have been hitched.

Now for the other study out this week. It suggests that women do, in fact, choose between marriage and careers, but their choices reflect the options available. The researchers from the University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Minnesota found that locales with fewer eligible men are the same places where women are more likely to pursue more education and higher-paying careers.

So there you have it. Women are sometimes delaying marriage and children for education and careers, but the delays are most acute where there are fewer men to choose from.

With rational choices like that, it’s hard to believe that civilization is doomed.

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