The richer you are, the greater chance you’ll marry

at 02:59 PM ET, 02/06/2012

The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project is out with a new study showing a strong correlation between income and marriage. While marriage rates have dropped as a whole over the last few decades, there’s been much a steeper decline in marriage among low-income Americans. Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney suggest that one reason for that drop is that labor-market changes that have altered marriage prospects for those trying to make ends meet, countering conservative claims that social norms and values are responsible for the trend.

Marriage rates among lower-income men and women have declined, but Greenstone and Looney offer different explanations for each gender. Among men, they say, those “that experienced the most adverse economic changes also experienced the largest declines in marriage” between 1970s and the present day.
(SOURCE: BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

By contrast, women have made big gains in the labor market over the past few decades. But their greater participation in the workforce--combined with a low-income male population, increasing prison rates for men, high unemployment and diminished earning power--has also kept more women from marrying. As s result, there’s a similar, if less dramatic, correlation between income and marriage among women:
(SOURCE: BROOKINGS)

That said, the authors worry about the downside for lower-income Americans of both sexes, particularly for those with families. Among single-parent households of both men and women, “the combination of declines in marriage and declines in economic opportunity have contributed to worse outcomes for some people, and especially for some children,” they write. In other words, poorer Americans are even worse off, in socioeconomic terms, if they stay single.

 
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