There is a widening gulf between how the best- and least-educated Americans approach marriage and child-rearing. Among the elite (excluding film stars), the nuclear family is holding up quite well. Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock. And the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.The Undercover Economist has this to say:
At the bottom of the education scale, the picture is reversed. Among high-school dropouts, the divorce rate rose from 38% for those who first married in 1975-79 to 46% for those who first married in 1990-94. Among those with a high school diploma but no college, it rose from 35% to 38%. And these figures are only part of the story. Many mothers avoid divorce by never marrying in the first place. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%.
There is little doubt that virgins achieve better grades. Yet is this because sex kills brain cells, or because kids who are already bored at school look harder for ways to amuse themselves? Professor Sabia’s article in Economic Inquiry uses data on the timing of the decision to have sex to show that kids who decide to have sex were already doing badly at school.See also David Brooks:
Professor Sabia’s results show that a girl does not seem to be distracted at all by losing her virginity - perhaps because young boyfriends are not competent enough to be terribly distracting.
Be careful, though, because it’s different for boys. Professor Sabia finds that deciding to have sex will knock a few percentage points off your grade.
There are at least two things we know about flourishing in a modern society. First, college students who attend religious services regularly do better than those that don’t. As Margarita Mooney, a Princeton sociologist, has demonstrated in her research, they work harder and are more engaged with campus life. Second, students who come from denominations that encourage dissent are more successful, on average, than students from denominations that don’t.