02/08/2012 03:11 pm ET | Updated Feb 09, 2012

College Graduate Marriages: College Attendance Lowers Marriage Rate For Disadvantaged

Contrary to popular belief, going to college may actually lower your chances of getting hitched.

Researchers from Cornell University and the University of California, Los Angeles found that people who go to college but come from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to get married because of a "marriage market mismatch."
"Disadvantaged" is defined as individuals who "tend to have come from families with lower income and to have parents with less education; they are also less likely to have had college track classes or friends with college plans," study co-author Dr. Kelly Musick said.

The research suggests that disadvantaged men and women with college degrees are reluctant to "marry down" -- defined as marrying partners with less education -- though they may also be unable to "marry up" to those from more privileged upbringings with whom they attended college.

The study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, examined a sample of about 3,200 Americans from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, reviewing family income, parental education and other social and economic factors in order to estimate the probability of going to college and the likelihood that they would get married.

Researchers found that disadvantaged men who attended college were 38 percent less likely to get married, and women were 22 percent less likely, compared to those who did not attend college but had the same social background.

Earlier research has suggested that college attendance increases an individual's chances of marrying. A 2010 Pew Research Center study found that college-educated adults are more likely to marry by the age of 30 than those who don't go to college. Pew researchers said that those without college degrees often have a harder time getting jobs, which can make it difficult to find a spouse.

But Musick told HuffPost Weddings that previous reports don't account for the impact of social class on college graduates. She said her research expands on -- rather than contradicts -- the Pew findings.