An Unequal Burden

Students from families with divorced or remarried parents pay twice the share of their college education as compared to their peers whose parents remain married to each other, according to recent research published online by the Journal of Family Issues.

"Divorced or separated parents contributed significantly less than married parents — in absolute dollars, as a proportion of their income, and as a proportion of their children’s financial need," Ruth N. Lopez Turley, associate professor of sociology at Rice University, and Matthew Desmond, a junior fellow at Harvard University, say in their article, "Contributions to College Costs by Married, Divorced, and Remarried Parents."

The proportional burden borne by students from different family types was especially telling, based on Turley’s and Desmond’s analysis of a subsample of 2,400 dependent undergraduate students from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study of 1995-6, along with a supplementary interview of parents. The researchers found that children whose parents were married to each other covered about 23 percent of their own college expenses, while children whose parents remarried had to pay for 47 percent of those expenses themselves. Those whose parents divorced and did not remarry were left to come up with 58 percent of the cost. “These findings are troubling for college bound students with divorced, separated, or remarried parents,” the authors say.

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