By Joanne Morrison
WASHINGTON — Staying married has its benefits, especially financial, as a new U.S.-wide study shows the wealth of a married person is almost double that of somebody who is single.
Divorce among U.S. baby boomers reduced personal wealth by about 77 percent compared to that of a single person, while the financial standing among those who remained married almost doubled, according to a nationwide study released this week.
“If you really want to increase your wealth, get married and stay married. On the other hand, divorce can devastate your wealth,” said Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and a research scientist at Ohio Sate University’s Center for Human Resource Research.
Married people will see an increase in wealth that is more than just adding the assets of two single people, according to the study that was published in the Journal of Sociology.
Those who remained together saw a 93 percent gain in wealth compared to that of a single person, while individuals facing divorce saw their financial situation deteriorate long before the decree became final, according to Zagorsky.
The study used data from surveys taken over a 15-year period involving 9,055 Americans who were between 21 and 28 years old in 1985.
Those respondents who remained single had a steady, but slow growth in wealth, from less than $2,000 at the start of the surveys up to an average of about $11,000 after 15 years.
However, those who married and stayed that way showed a sharp increase in wealth accumulation after marriage, growing to an average $43,000 by the 10th year of marriage or by about 16 percent a year.
For people who married and then divorced, there was a slow build-up of wealth during the early years of marriage and then a steady decline about four years prior to divorce.
“Many of these people may have separated before the divorce became official, which would help explain why wealth starts falling so early,” Zagorsky said. “Divorce is often a long and messy process, and you can see this in the four-year decline in wealth.”
The study also cast doubt on a common assumption that divorce is much harder financially on women than on men. In fact, it showed that women suffered financially only slightly more than men.