Religious colleges are good marriage incubators

Written by William C. Duncan

October 21, 2022

Americans are less likely to get married than they have in the past. A Pew Research Center article explains: “The share of adults ages 25 to 54 who are currently married fell from 67% in 1990 to 53% in 2019…. The share who have never been married has also grown – from 17% to 33%.” There is reason to worry that the situation will get worse. The National Center for Family and Marriage Research “reports that the expectation to marry among high school seniors has declined – from 75% in 2017 to 71% in 2020 (down from a high of 81% in 2006).”

This decline has implications for more than just wedding professionals. Marriage has important benefits for spouses. A recent study of millennials found that those who were married

were more likely to report satisfying and stable relationships compared to Millennials in other types of committed relationships; were more likely to have better access to health care, retirement benefits, and insurance compared to unmarried Millennials; reported better health and more regular exercise than those who weren’t married; were significantly less likely to report depression than single Millennials.

Other research demonstrates significant benefits to married mothers: “Thirty-three percent of married mothers ages 18-55 say they are ‘completely satisfied’ with their lives, compared to 15 percent of childless women 18-55.”

This same article noted that marriage helps with financial stability as well, explaining that, “a recent Wall Street Journal story reported…that ‘median net worth of married couples 25 to 34 years old was nearly nine times as much as the median net worth of single households in 2019.’”

So, what can be done to encourage marriage?

One possibility is to encourage religious participation. A recent longitudinal study “found that those in the strongly religious group were significantly more likely to be married” at the end of the study period than the non-religious or generally religious but not active groups. “This was particularly true for the men in the study: 97% of highly religious men were likely to be married by their mid-40’s, compared to only 65% of non-religious men.”

An intriguing article highlights a very specific setting for promoting marriage – religious schools.

The article notes that college “is a great place to get married.” Some colleges are better than others. The article found “the top 25 schools [in share of married graduates] are almost all religiously affiliated.” The top schools “are Orthodox Jewish Yeshivas, and all but two of the remaining have an explicit religious affiliation.” The two exceptions are Utah schools, Bridgerland Applied Technical College and Utah State University. Utah has the nation’s “fourth-highest marriage rate” and the author suggests these two schools might have done well in the rankings because of a disproportionately large share of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the student body.

This is not to say that religious schools necessarily create marriages, but the combination of two factors for marriage – religiosity and college education – make religious colleges a fruitful site for meeting a spouse.

Religious organizations, including religious schools, provide unique benefits to students and society at large. Marriage may be one of those. In a nation where marriage is less popular, that is an important benefit.

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