A recent report by Ohio State sociologist Zhenchao Qian on “Divergent Paths of American Families” covers how trends in marriage, divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation developed (and affected children) in the first decade of this millennium. In addition to reviewing class and racial gaps in family structure, he presents lesser-known differences between immigrants and those born in the U.S. “To say the least,” he writes, “immigration contributed to the recent ‘quieting’ of family change in America.” Here’s an overview of his findings.
Immigrants are more likely to marry: Between 2000 and 2010, “immigrants married at a higher level at every age group compared with the U.S. born.” Their relatively high marriage rates have propped up the national marriage rate and mitigated the decline in marriage.
. . . but they’re becoming less likely to do so: The percent of immigrants who have ever been married is declining, and immigrants’ marriage rates were hit harder than those of the native-born by the recession. In fact, according to Qian, since immigrants’ marriage rates between 2008 and 2010 resemble the 2000 marriage rates of the native-born, they may be just a decade behind on the same trajectory as the native-born.
The effect of race/ethnicity on marriage rates is smaller among immigrants: While black immigrants are less likely to be married than white or Hispanic immigrants, racial/ethnic gaps are “much smaller” (in Qian’s words) among immigrants than among the native-born. This indicates, he believes, “stronger cultural influences from home countries.”
Economic resources and educational attainment have little impact on immigrants’ marriage rates: Qian suggests that “economic resource is the key to marriage among the U.S. born,” but not among immigrants. Less educated (and therefore less wealthy) immigrants are hardly less likely to be married than their more-educated counterparts. To give just a few striking numbers, among those without a high school diploma, 60% of immigrant men and 69% of immigrant women are married, vs. just 22 and 23% of native-born Americans with the same education level. Qian concludes that marriage is “not seen as a status symbol among immigrants.” Rather, their traditional norms mean that “they marry regardless of economic resource.”
That last point means that, in addition to boosting the national marriage rate, immigrants (who are on average less educated than the native born) are particularly propping up marriage rates among those with less than a college education.
The full report is available here.