For the past few decades, Americans have been getting married later in life and are becoming more likely forego marriage altogether. Between 1970 and 2000, the median age of first marriage in the U.S. rose by about four years, and the percentage of people who decide not to marry at all increased from 5 percent to 10 percent.
"What is perhaps most striking is the increasing stratification in marriage by race and education," Schneider said. "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." A similar gap has opened for people of different education levels. People with less education have become increasingly less likely to get married.
"These gaps matter because a large body of social science literature suggests that marriage has beneficial effects on adults and children," Schneider said. "If those who are already disadvantaged are now marrying less and so missing out on these beneficial properties of marriage, that could cement cycles of disadvantage and intergenerational inequality."
What is behind these growing gaps has not been fully explained. Several studies have found that having a steady job and a good income are important factors in determining whether someone gets married. Because blacks and those with less education face disadvantages in the labor market, they might tend hold off marriage longer, thereby increasing gaps in marriage rates. But income only explains a part of these gaps, Schneider says.
He wanted to see if accumulated wealth—whether or not someone owns a car, has money in a savings account, or owns financial assets like stocks and bonds—might be playing a role along with income. If wealth matters marriage decisions, then existing inequalities in wealth between blacks and whites could be driving the gaps in marriage rates.
Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979), Schneider tested whether owning such assets increased the probability that a person entered a first marriage in a given year. After controlling for confounding factors such as income, employment, and family background, the analysis showed that owning a car increases the probability that a man will get married in a given year by 2.6 percentage points. Owning a financial asset increases the probability by 1.5 percentage points. Wealth also increases the likelihood that a woman would marry, though to a lesser degree than for men.
The results show that the wealth gap between blacks and whites in the U.S. is contributing to the growing marriage gap even more so than differences in income. According to Schneider's analysis, about 30 percent of the racial marriage gap can be explained by wealth, while income, employment, and public benefits receipt explains about 20 percent. The wealth effect also explains more than half of the gap in marriage rates between those with people who did not finish high school and those with college degrees.
"In all, I find evidence to support the argument that wealth is an important prerequisite of marriage, especially for men," Schneider writes. "What people own, not just what they earn or know, shapes entrance into marriage and so may perpetuate disadvantage across generations."
The findings make a strong argument in favor of social programs designed to help people build their assets, Schneider argues. "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."
Daniel Schneider, "Wealth and the Marital Divide." American Journal of Sociology 117:2. (study published October 4, 2011).
Established in 1895 as the first U.S. scholarly journal in its field, the American Journal of Sociology remains a leading voice for analysis and research in the social sciences.
Kevin Stacey | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy