Where are the young Christian marriage partners?

Evangelical Christian private schools.  There is a great blog that tracks research and what data exists on homeschooling, and in this link there’s a discussion of some research into whether homeschooled kids marry and have kids differently than kids educated other ways (particularly public school kids).

In a nutshell, evangelical Christian private school attendees end up marrying before 25 and having their first kid a few years later.  Catholic school attendees marry around 28-30 and have their first kid ASAP.  Homeschool and public school kids have higher rates of teen and early 20s pregnancy and marriage (still fairly low in raw numbers) and higher rates of being unmarried at 39.

Without extreme religiosity, which drives most of the homeschool early marriage, homeschool family formation and childbearing is pretty much the same as public school family formation and childbearing, which is useful information for homeschoolers to have now that the extremely religious are a much smaller minority of homeschoolers these days.

I haven’t cross-referenced this with lifetime births per woman, but I suspect based on demographic patterns that this means homeschoolers and public school kids have slightly fewer lifetime children per woman and probably per man than religious private schoolers of either Catholic or Evangelical Christian persuasion.

Anyway my rapscallionate brood is going to evangelical Christian schools, I guess!

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22 thoughts on “Where are the young Christian marriage partners?

  1. Some thoughts:

    1. I’m concerned that the difference between Evangelical and Catholic school graduates more reflects geography rather than differences between schools in the same areas–it may be more a distinction between Northeastern and Southern economic realities, rather than a difference between Evangelical and Catholic schools per se.

    2. There’s also an issue with Catholic K-8 versus Catholic high school. Lots of children go to parochial school K-8 and then to public high school, but Catholic high school is a much more rarefied environment (and ruinously expensive). So a Catholic K-12 graduate is an unusual (and rather elite) critter.

    3. It often comes up in intra-Catholic conversations that it is ironic how difficult it is these days to have a stereotypically large Catholic family and afford Catholic school for the children. And that’s even truer of high school. A family with four children does very well to do K-8 in parochial school.

    4. The very young homeschool marriages may (unfortunately) reflect kids escaping from home by any means possible.

    5. Come to think of it, K-12 homeschool is also unusual. Don’t a lot of people switch to public or private school by high school?

    5. Poor income may be suppressing the homeschool graduates’ childbearing.

    6. “Contenders here might include the relative isolation of homeschooled young adults from eligible marriage partners, patriarchal attitudes among some homeschoolers toward dating and women’s roles that might limit these women’s marriage prospects, the experiences of some older homeschooled children (particularly girls) who spend their teen years caring for younger siblings and thus are not keen to jump right into motherhood themselves when they reach adulthood, and the possibility that the stereotypical plainness and awkwardness of some homeschoolers might make them less likely to find a spouse.”

    Except for the last item there (which is kind of mean), those all look likely.

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      • There’s a hilarious segment in Sandra Tsing Loh’s Mother on Fire book that I love. She lists the cost of attending various religious schools, finishing up with the Baptists–a bargain at $3,000 a year, but they don’t teach evolution.

        Sandra Tsing Loh says (in an angry email to a liberal friend):

        “And now I’m thinking:
        How bad can Creationism really be? Or intelligent design?
        Having our children taught evolution is clearly an economic luxury. We have to be realistic. In this day and age, perhaps Darwinism is not a theory our family can actually afford…”

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  2. The Baptists in my town run the most expensive (and well-thought-of) private school in the area. I hear it’s more expensive to send your kid there than to the local Cal-State.

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    • Ugh, to me that sounds so counterproductive. How is that conducive to cultivating a community that needs help thriving? It leaves only those with more than adequate resources to participate, thereby creating a self-selection bias. I understand private schools are expensive, but gosh there’s got to be a better way to create schools without jacking up the price but provides the religious and educational instruction.

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      • I don’t think they’re trying to create community. Just a very good school. And it *is* a good school. Very strict, excellent academics, and they’re starting to have decent sports. Parents *will* pay for their kids to be as well-educated as they can be. And education > community. Or wouldn’t we be in public school???

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  3. Without extreme religiosity…

    That’s kind of the crux of it all, isn’t it?

    It’s baby steps. Why aren’t Christians more devout? What can we do to cultivate devout communities? Why aren’t those who are already devout contributing to the creation of Christian strongholds?

    I have an answer to the last one– it’s hard to find people. I joined a young adults group to help resolve that issue. I’m not sure about the former questions.

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  4. I found this part interesting:

    “Uecker and Hill speculate that their data may confirm the observation frequently made that Catholic schools now function largely as elite prep schools and that graduates of Catholic schools are marked more by their social class than by their religion’s pro-natalist Theology when it comes to marriage and childbearing patterns.”

    I can only present anecdotes, based on what people younger than me have shared, and what I’ve read about. I think part of this is due to the fact many Catholic schools, and Catholic colleges are becoming increasingly liberalized to the point where the only thing “Catholic” is their Catholic studies department.

    The incoming student body is often what drives the liberal culture.

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    • I think there’s a chicken-and-egg issue here.

      If a larger more conservative families can’t afford Catholic school, then larger more conservative families will not enroll their children in Catholic school–leaving Catholic schools to either smaller conservative families or smaller more liberal families, which will effect the culture of the schools. (Using “conservative” and “liberal” as shorthand here.)

      Our kids’ Protestant school is relatively inexpensive (as private schools go) and yet our monthly tuition bill for two children is higher than our monthly grocery store expenses and also higher than our mortgage payment (principal + interest). When we have three children in full-time school in a few years, our monthly tuition bill will be larger than our total housing expenses (mortgage + interest + substantial property taxes). It takes a very good household income to absorb that kind of hit. I can’t help but notice that there are a lot of doctors’ families at school…

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      • I find this very saddening. Why are parochial schools so costly?

        From what those who work in the industry have told me, it’s the fact that the schools are competing with public schools for their teachers. It’s no longer the 1970s where’s an ample supply of nuns that work for free along with volunteer parents. You have to meet state standards, pay capital expenses, and offer decent salaries to lay teachers as well.

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    • Come to think of it, I believe a number of our private school families leave after 6th grade–my oldest lost her two best friends at school that year.

      I personally think it would be wiser to stick it out until the end of 8th grade and then bail, as public middle school is notoriously terrible.

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      • I’ve found that people start putting their kids in Catholic school at middle school ages to avoid the horror stories from middle and junior high schools. Some of those students have the worst transition to Catholic school from my experience since they’re not used to the environment that those of us who started off in Kindergarten have dealt with since day one.

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    • I think part of this is due to the fact many Catholic schools, and Catholic colleges are becoming increasingly liberalized to the point where the only thing “Catholic” is their Catholic studies department.

      Schools are increasingly afraid of driving out the students they need to keep operations afloat. Tuition has gone up, so it’s scaring off the poorer students, especially now that charter schools exist in many places. In turn, out here in $12K property tax land, unless Catholic school becomes tax deductible, the only people who will send their kids to Catholic school are people looking for a magical solution to discipline their bad kids, or rich people who may not be as wedded to the faith.

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      • Basically they’re just better schools. What’s the point of a parochial school holding onto its religious identity if it can’t be bothered with furthering the advancement of said community?

        Oh wait I can already guess what you’ll say– because no one wants to be bland 😛

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  5. Maea had the key question here: How do we find RL people with whom to form community?

    Not all of you are fortunate enough to have enormous churches with activities enough to keep everyone occupied as much as they’d like. 😉

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  6. Speaking as a homeschool graduate, I wanted to get out of my home by any means possible, but wisely didn’t do so until age 26 when I married — it took me that long to find a husband. In the circles in which I was a part, the men were very threatened by a woman who had more than a high school diploma — the fact that I had a college education was a huge red flag to them all, and nobody would look at me twice. My friends all got small odd jobs right after high school and waited for Mr. Right to come along. Apparently that was what I was supposed to do. It was typical of the manospherian line — i.e, a woman with goals and interests outside of home that could have any hint towards a career is an obvious feminist and is to be avoided like the plague, etc. (I was a kindergarten teacher; to this day I am bemused as to why this was so threatening. But in my circles, any woman with an education or any wherewithal to be even slightly independent meant she was shunned.) But in the end it was OK, because my husband didn’t feel threatened by a woman with an education degree who taught kindergarteners (but I was the first one in my group to do the online thing, too — go Catholic Match!) 🙂

    But, you would have it right that there are homeschool students who want to get out of their homes as fast as possible. I was one of them — even though I do believe homeschooling is a great idea for some people, and fully support it as an educational choice, because our right to freedom of choice in our children’s education is paramount. I homeschool myself, but not because I believe it is the be-all, end-all.

    To the lady who figured everybody switches to standard school after homeschooling — not necessarily; in particular if you are willing to enroll in one of the many homeschool programs available, high school can be done at home (and shouldn’t be dismissed too lightly as a possibility). If you want to do high school at home, I personally recommend enrolling in a home study program or school where you will get transcripts, records and a diploma. It makes your life much easier and also provides you with counselors and tutors for those areas where it gets tough, plus you make sure you cover everything that should be covered in high school (a lot of people I know who didn’t choose this route had problems with high school and ended up with students who had some significant gaps in their education). The cost is much, much lower than that of private high school, as well!

    On Catholic schools — here in our diocese, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, have been invited by the bishop to teach here. Currently they teach in one elementary school and one high school. We also have a diocesan tuition aid program, plus we can direct our state tax liability towards a school tuition organization to provide scholarships to lower-income students. All these factors are giving encouraging results. More children are able to attend Catholic or other private schools as a result, and the schools where the nuns are teaching have actually had tuition lowered (not very much, but a little bit) — the nuns, being under vows of poverty, do not receive a salary as such, but are supported by the diocese and the income of the tuition in a very different way from a teacher who has to support a rent or mortgage payment and possibly dependents; the school needs to employ fewer lay teachers who do need such a salary, so it’s become a win-win situation all around. There still aren’t enough nuns for the schools to be entirely staffed by nuns, but as you may know that order is growing by leaps and bounds; they have to turn away girls because they are running out of room at their Motherhouse. They are on a wait list — as soon as they profess nuns and send them to apostolates, they let new postulants in. I see that as very encouraging for the future of Catholic schools and hopefully future women religious vocations.

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    • Your experiences as a homeschooled child and the circles is revealing, because it continues to show there’s a huge self-selection bias. Men from these backgrounds are more likely to want women who meet the criteria from the same background.

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Catholic school-educated and college-educated Catholic women are going to end up marrying the men from traditional homeschooling circles. There are marriage partners out there, but there’s also a lot of assortative mating. It’s just a matter of getting into the right environments for the exposure to the right people.

      That’s why a lot of people go to college. Who knew kindergarten teachers could be so threatening?

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  7. Another phenomenon we have in my area is the Catholic school that isn’t really a Catholic school — namely, a network of charter schools that teach the classics, Latin beginning in the third grade, French beginning in kindergarten and Greek beginning in seventh (I feel like a failure sometimes just reading their curriculum online and wishing my kids could have the advantage of such a rich education that I simply can’t provide them. I’m trying.) The high schoolers read St. Augustine’s “City of God”, they read the Bible, they read St. Thomas Aquinas. I am not kidding. It’s amazing what these awesome folks who put it together have done. Their schools have waiting lists a mile long; if you want to enroll your kindergartener at their primary school (it was the first school they opened and they have all the best teachers there) you literally have to sign up the kid the day he is born to get him on the wait list!

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