WASHINGTON - Working-class Americans are now less likely to get married, stay married and have their children within marriage than those who are college-educated, a new University of Virginia and Harvard University study finds.
"Working-class people with insecure work and few resources, little stability and no ability to plan for a foreseeable future become concerned with their own survival and often become unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others," said Sarah Corse, an associate professor of sociology in U.Va.'s College of Arts & Sciences and the study's lead author, in a news release.
"Insecure work changes peoples' non-work lives," Corse said.
In a study being released Tuesday at the American Sociological Association, Corse and Harvard sociologist Jennifer Silva surveyed 300 working- and middle-class men and women between the ages of 18 and 70.
They found that the loss of unionized full-time jobs with health insurance and pensions have affected the working class.
People in the middle class, researchers found, are better able to recover from the effects of insecure work situations than the working class and seek out stable relationships.
"Marriage is becoming a distinctive social institution marking middle-class status," Corse said.
"Marriage has lost its relevance as a marker of adulthood," said Silva.
Those in unsecure or unstable work situations are not able to trust people and to develop intimate relationships, the study finds.
"Our interviewees without college degrees expressed feelings of distrust and even fear about intimate relationships, and had difficulty imagining being able to provide for others," the researchers said.
The study finds college-educated people are more resilient and more able to commit to marriage and to planning families.
People with college degrees tend to have stable jobs and better incomes, which in turn leads to more stability and higher expectations for their marriages and lives, according to the study.