Divorced Parents and College Education

Apparently divorced parents are contributing less money toward their children’s college education. This is not because divorced people are stingier. It has more to do with what sort of people get divorced. According to an article by Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post:

A new study by researchers from Rice University and the University of Wisconsin finds that divorced and separated parents contribute much less toward the costs of their children’s education than married parents.

Ruth N. López Turley and Matthew Desmond found that…”In aggregate, children whose parents are married must cover about 23 percent of college expenses themselves… and those from divorced households need to come up with a full 58 percent of the cost.”

Married parents devote about 8 percent of their annual income to the higher education costs of their children; for divorced parents it’s about 6 percent (Remarried parents allot about 5 percent of their annual income, on average, to higher education).

While technically true, presenting statistics like this might actually be a little misleading of me. It’s not really because their parents are divorced; it’s because they’re poor. There’s no mysterious reason why divorced parents are contributing less money towards their children’s education. In fact, all evidence suggests divorced parents would like to contribute generously toward college, if they had the money.

As de Vise writes, “in the year studied, the median income of married parents, $57,724, was nearly twice the income of divorced or separated parents.” The income of married parents was, on average, higher than the (combined) income of divorced parents. Or, as one blogger put it: “poor people get divorced more than rich people. Beyond that, it’s risky to make generalizations.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer