Material Wealth Increases Marriage Odds

October 15, 2011
money and marriage

Individuals who have no personal wealth such as financial assets or a vehicle are significantly less likely to get married, researchers from the United States reported this week.

Statistics have demonstrated that for the past few decades, most people in America have been starting a family later in life and that they are becoming more likely to give up the idea of getting married altogether. Between 1970 and 2000, the average age of getting married for the first time in the United States increased by about 4 years, and the percentage of individuals who did not want to enter marriage at all went up from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

According to the study author, Daniel Schneider of Princeton University, the most surprising and striking is the growing stratification in marriage by race and education. For example, between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of white women who had been married between the ages of 25 and 29 years, had fallen by thirteen percentage points to 68 per cent, but the drop was way larger for African American ladies, dropping 25 points to just thirty-eight per cent.

Schneider says that this gap could be explained by the difference in income and employment status. Several studies have revealed that having a good and steady job and income are significant factors in determining whether someone gets married. Therefore, because African Americans and individuals with less education encounter disadvantages in the labor market, they may hold off longer getting married, thus increasing the gaps in marriage rates. But Schneider says that income only explains a part of these gaps.

Researcher wanted to figure out if accumulated wealth, such as money in the savings account, a car, or financial assets like stocks and bonds, might be playing a role along with income. If wealth is an important factor when one has to make a decision whether or not to get married, then existing dissimilarity in wealth between black and white people could be driving the gaps in marriage rates.

Using the information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979), Schneider tested whether owning such assets increased the probability that a person would enter the first marriage in a given year. After taking into consideration factors such as salary, employment, and family history, the investigator came to the conclusion that owning a car increases a man's probability of getting married in a given year by 2.6 percentage points, and if he owns a financial asset, the probability of him starting a family increases by 1.5 percentage points. As to women, wealth is also an important advantage, and increases their likelihood of getting married, though not to that degree as for their male counterparts.

The new findings demonstrate that the wealth gap between African Americans and whites in the United States is a big factor that contributes to the increasing marriage gap even more so than differences in income. According to Schneider's results, about thirty per cent of the racial marriage gap can be explained by wealth, while income, employment, and public benefits receipt explains about twenty per cent. The wealth effect also explains more than half of the gap in marriage rates between individuals who did not or could not finish high school and those who have college degrees.

New results were published in October, 2011 issue of the American Journal of Sociology, called "Wealth and the Marital Divide".

Tags: Marriage

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