Data from the U.S. Census and Current Population Survey are used to examine trends in the propensity to marry or to cohabit by the age and educational attainment of potential partners. Marriage rates declined sharply across all age and educational combinations between 1970 and 1980 and declined more sharply for less-educated persons between 1980 and 1990. The rise in cohabitation compensated somewhat for the decline in marriage rates, but the compensation was unequally spread among age and educational combinations. Highly educated men were more likely, and highly educated women were no more or less likely, to marry than to cohabit with less-educated partners in 1970 and 1980. By 1990, however, educational assortative-mating patterns between these two types of unions were similar. In 1990, marriages and cohabitations involving women who were better educated than their partners were more common than those involving women who were less educated than their partners. In addition, men and women in their early 20s tend to have partners better educated than themselves, but persons in their 30s tend to cross the less-than-high-school/ more-than-high-school educational barrier when partners differ in educational attainment.

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