Ruth Marcus, an opinion writer at the Washington Post, recently wrote: “[Marital] decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.” Recent trends in marriage have shown higher marriage rates for college-educated, high-income individuals and lower marriage rates among those with lower levels of education and income. In practice, Marcus notes, this trend “contributes to income inequality.”
It also makes it harder for the poor to achieve higher income levels. Citing the Pew Economic Mobility Project, Marcus reports 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 … moved up the income ladder as adults.”
One reason is education: “[B]eing 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.” There are certainly other factors as well, given the wealth of benefits and resources that marriage produces for men, women and children alike.
While marriage is often (reasonably) viewed through the prism of “family policy,” the impact of marriage extends well beyond the family. Those who wish to use the tools of public policy to benefit the economy in this difficult time would do well to look at the effects those policies have on marriage.