October 7, 2011
Assets Increase Incidence of Marriage
A new study published in the American Journal of Sociology indicates that the incidence of marriage drops when people have no personal wealth such as a car or financial assets.
The study shows that in the past few decades Americans are getting married when they are older and may forego marriage altogether. Statistics in the study indicate that between 1970 and 2000 the median age of first marriage rose by four years and the percentage of unmarrieds increased from 5 percent to 10 percent.Daniel Schneider of Princeton University, the study author, said “What is perhaps most striking is the increasing stratification in marriage by race and education. From 1980 to 2000, the percentage of white women who had been married by ages 25 to 29 had dropped by 13 percentage points to 68 percent, but the drop was far larger for blacks, dropping 25 points to just 38 percent.”
Schneider thinks that this gap may be the difference in income and employment status. Studies show that having a good job and income are important in determining who becomes married. Therefore the gaps between blacks and whites may be because blacks typically have less education than whites decreasing their chances for gainful employment, thus they may hold off longer getting married increasing the gaps in marriage rates.
Schneider says, “In all, I find evidence to support the argument that wealth is an important prerequisite of marriage, especially for men. What people own, not just what they earn or know, shapes entrance into marriage and so may perpetuate disadvantage across generations.”
Schneider believes the inequality in marriage rates makes a strong argument for social programs designed to help people build assets. He says, “Contrary to concerns that such programs are unlikely to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the poor because these individuals are unlikely to accumulate significant savings, I argue that even small amounts of wealth may help disadvantaged men and women meet the economic standard of marriage.”
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