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!
Some brain tumors may respond to immunotherapy, new study suggests
11.12.2018 | Columbia University Irving Medical Center
Climate change and air pollution damaging health and causing millions of premature deaths
30.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy