Higher Education and Stable Black Marriages

Nationwide, 45.6 percent of black households are traditional married-couple families. For whites, the figure is 81.3 percent.

Among both blacks and whites, married-couple families are more likely to have higher education credentials than families generally. And black and white married-couple families are far more likely to have a head who has graduated from college than are families with a single parent.

For whites, 34.7 percent of all married-couple families have a head who is college educated, a slight 3 percentage point improvement over white families generally. For blacks, the college education advantage of married-couple families is far greater. More than 23 percent of all black married-couple families have a head who has graduated from a four-year college. This is a 6 percentage point improvement over black families generally.

The data presents a classic “chicken or the egg” dilemma. Which came first, a good marriage or a good education? Does a stable marriage increase the likelihood that blacks will persist in their educational pursuits and graduate from college? Or, are black people who have graduated from college more likely to enter into a stable relationship?

The answer might be both. Young married couples who are enrolled in college tend to have an optimistic outlook for the future. Thus, the pursuit of higher education in these young black families may make for a happier marriage and increase the likelihood that a young couple will stay together. Older black adults with a college degree are more successful economically. Without the stress that financial problems can produce in a family setting, college-educated black families are in all probability more likely to stay together.