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Choosing Our Future: A Story of Opportunity in America

Percentage of Women Married Among Educational Attainment Groups, 1940-2011

Source: Julissa Cruz, Marriage: More than a Century of Change, Family Profiles-13-13) (Bowling Green, Ohio: National Center for Family and Marriage Research), retrieved from (PDF) (PDF). Adapted from U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Census, 1940-2000 (IPUMS); U.S. Census Bureau.



Women’s marriage rates by level of educational attainment changed substantially from 1940 to 2011.

After a steady increase in marriage rates in the 1940s and 1950s, marriage rates for women with a high school diploma fell from a high of about 75 percent in the late 1950s and early 1960s to less than 50 percent by 2011.

Marriage rates for women with some college or Bachelor’s degrees, after an initial increase through the 1950s, also dropped from 1960 to 2011, but not as dramatically as for others.

The drop in marriage rates has been most striking for women with less than a high school diploma. In the 1940s, of all women, they were the most likely to be married. From the 1950s on, the marriage rates for this group have steadily declined. In fact, they dropped from around 65 percent in 1950 to under 30 percent by 2011. So women in this group were less than half as likely to be married in 2011 as they were in 1950.