Middle class marriages are shifting substantially away from their historic track record: middle-class couples who are moderately educated are now seeking divorce at rate above that of other segments of the population. A new report by the National Marriage Project and Institute for American Values assembled data showing a “marriage gap” for the middle class when compared to lower and upper classes.
The segment of the population at issue is classified as those who have graduated from high school but do not hold a four-year college degree. These couples demonstrate a surge in divorce and single-parent households compared to data collected in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
The numbers show an unmistakable rise of divorce amongst the middle class, while the lower and middle class marriage divorce figures stay stable. Many people from different backgrounds cite different reasons for the shift.
What Does the Divorce Data Tell Us?
Conservative marriage groups, such as the two who conducted the study, claim the spike in middle-class divorce is because of an erosion of family values. They cite declines in traditional religious practice and an increase in out-of-wedlock births as evidence that Americans have lost traditional American values throughout the past several decades.
Other analysts point out that people feel empowered in modern society and refuse to stay in a rotten marriage, especially when domestic abuse is involved. These pundits cite an increase in education and awareness as the biggest reasons for the middle-class rise in divorce. And when children are involved, a modern middle-class couple may believe that divorce or legal separation is less harmful to a child than living in a toxic household where parents may act spiteful to each other.
Most people on both sides of the issue believe that the Great Recession has placed additional stress on many middle-class marriages, and remains one of the crucial factors in recent divorces. Financial problems are commonly cited as one of the top reasons that couples break up.
A Study Can Never Tell a Couple’s Story
While studies are an important tool for studying trends across the population, they tend to generalize segments of people and place them in boxes. It is unfair for outsiders to judge couples who they have never met. People often lose sight of the fact that each family is different, facing unique pressures and situations.