In this chapter we shift our emphasis from religion and family attitudes to consider the influence of educational aspirations and achievement on marriage and cohabitation in young adulthood. We do so because as we emphasized in our historical review in chapter 2, marriage has long been intricately interrelated with economic standing and prospects. Because marriage in Western societies historically meant the establishment of independent households and economic units, couples who wanted to marry required the earning capacity to maintain considerable residential and economic independence from their parents. This earning capacity was historically obtained through a joint economic enterprise centered on the family and household. With industrialization and geographical separation of much productive work from the home, the husband provided the family's primary economic support though wages from employment outside the home while the wife took care of the home and children. More recently, both husband and wife have contributed to the economic well-being of the family through nonfamily employment, although men continue to specialize more in market work and women in the care of home and family.
The significance of economic considerations in Western marriage suggests an important effect of earning capacity on the ability to marry (Lichter et al. 1992; Oppenheimer 1994, 1988, 2003; Oppenheimer and Lew 1995). This leads to the expectation that young people with high skill levels, extensive training in educational programs, high-quality jobs, and