Monday, December 19, 2011

Scary marriage trends

Ruth Marcus starts her column The marriage gap presents a real cost with:

If current trends hold, within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married. This precipitous decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.

Specifically, it’s an income-inequality and economic-mobility problem. The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.

The latest numbers, from the Pew Research Center, are startling and disturbing. In 1960, nearly three-fourths of those 18 and older were married. By 2010, that number had plummeted to a bare majority, 51 percent. Four in 10 births were to unmarried women.

In 1960, the most- and least-educated adults were equally likely to be married. Now, nearly two-thirds of college graduates are married, compared with less than half of those with a high school diploma or less. Those with less education are less likely to ever marry and more likely to divorce if they do.

She covers some of the ways children suffer when being raised outside of marriage and she concludes with:

A different arm of Pew, its Economic Mobility Project, found that among children who started in the bottom third of income, only one-fourth of those with divorced parents moved up to the middle or top third as adults. By comparison, half of children with continuously married parents — and, somewhat surprisingly, 42 percent of those born to unmarried mothers — moved up the income ladder as adults.

Is marriage a magic-bullet solution to the broader problem of income inequality and lack of economic mobility? No, but fewer marriages will mean more inequality. Neither development is healthy.

She makes many of the same points Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age byKay S. Hymowitz covers.  You can read my review of this book here.

Hat tip:  Derek Cate

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