WaPo Op-Ed: "The Marriage Gap Presents a Real Cost"


Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post:

If current trends hold, within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married. This precipitous decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.

Specifically, it’s an income-inequality and economic-mobility problem. The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.

... Of even more concern is the generational impact of this increased inequality. Being raised in a stable, two-parent household is a strong determinant of educational achievement. In turn, educational achievement is a strong — and growing stronger — determinant of lifetime income. As a result, the marriage gap becomes a grimly self-perpetuating process.

... A different arm of Pew, its Economic Mobility Project, found that among children who started in the bottom third of income, only one-fourth of those with divorced parents moved up to the middle or top third as adults. By comparison, half of children with continuously married parents — and, somewhat surprisingly, 42 percent of those born to unmarried mothers — moved up the income ladder as adults.

Is marriage a magic-bullet solution to the broader problem of income inequality and lack of economic mobility? No, but fewer marriages will mean more inequality. Neither development is healthy.