Researchers report that there is a strong correlation between marriage and wealth. However, a census study by the Pew Research Center in 2013 reveal married households fell from 72 percent in 1960 to only 50 percent in 2012. Marriage is thriving among people with four-year college degrees, but is plummeting among those with less education and economic means.
In a country that values individuality and personal freedom, it isn’t surprising that some are choosing a different path compared to previous generations. The decision to remain single can be as fulfilling and life-affirming as the decision to marry. Nevertheless, according to recent data, it appears that bucking marriage may lead to falling behind economically for some.
Over the last couple of decades, non-college educated men have seen sharp declines in earning power. Women, on the other hand, have made substantial gains in educational and career prospects. The growing self-sufficiency among women resulting from educational attainment, falling gender gaps and greater control over fertility choices have reduced the economic value of marriage. When contemplating whether to tie the knot, women are reluctant to pair with someone who is financially burdensome – carrying high debt and little savings may harbinger economic struggle. Although women have more opportunities, single living is more costly than sharing and the ability to save or invest money is diminished.
Many college-educated men are equally reluctant to enter into marriage if they perceive financial quirks in a potential match. Many want a partner to be financially responsible so that they can achieve unfettered success. The mantra ‘two incomes are better than one’ remains relevant, with the added criteria of demonstrating fiscal responsibility from the ‘get go’. The trend sharply contrasts with diverse economic and educational marital pairings of an earlier era and delaying marriage is becoming more common.
The decision to postpone marriage or never marry at all, combined with increased divorce rates has reduced the number of married households in the United States significantly. Yet, surprisingly, the desire to marry remains strong. A 2013 Gallup Poll reveals that a mere 5 percent of Americans reported that they did ‘not’ want to marry. Apparently, despite all the naysaying – the hope of marriage lives on.
Source: New York Times, “Falling Marriage Rates Reveal Economic Fault Lines”, by Andrew L. Yarrow. February 8, 2015.