Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Marriage And Class In America

Among the upper-middle class, marriage continues to be the norm. Among the lower-middle class, though, marriage rates have collapsed.

This has created a cultural gulf between classes in America that affects every aspect of life, and arguably threatens the cohesion of America itself . . .

In 1960, 88 per cent of upper-middle-class adults were married. In 2010, the figure was 83 per cent, a small drop.

But among the working class, 83 per cent of whom were married in 1960, the figure today is 43 per cent . . .

Children pay an even higher price for the absence of marriage. As [author Kay] Hymowitz writes: “If you want to analyze the inequality problem, start with the marriage gap. Virtually all—92 per cent—of children whose families make over $75,000 per year are living with married parents. On the other end of the income scale, the situation is reversed: only 20 per cent of kids in families earning under $15,000 live with both parents.”

The evidence is overwhelming. Parental behavior—that is, choosing, or not, to wait until marriage to have children—is the key determinant of success for children.

“Children of single mothers,” Hymowitz writes, “have lower grades and educational attainment than kids who grow up with married parents, even after controlling for race, family background, and IQ.”

And it isn’t just the presence of a man in the house that makes married families more successful. “Poverty rates of cohabiting-couple parents are double those of married couples, even controlling for education, immigration status, and race.”

Mona Charen, writing in National Review on 29 April 2011

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