People without cars, financial assets less likely to marry: study

October 6, 2011, University of Chicago

A study published this week in the American Journal of Sociology finds that people who lack personal wealth in the form of a car or financial assets are significantly less likely to enter into a first marriage. The results, according to study author Daniel Schneider of Princeton University, shed light on recent changes in marriage patterns in the U.S.

For the past few decades, Americans have been getting married later in life and are becoming more likely forego altogether. Between 1970 and 2000, the 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 in marriage by race and education," Schneider said. "From 1980 to 2000, the percentage of 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 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 may help disadvantaged men and women meet the economic standard of marriage."

Explore further: Health and marriage: The times they are a changin'

More information: Daniel Schneider, "Wealth and the Marital Divide." American Journal of Sociology 117:2. (study published October 4, 2011).

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4.5 / 5 (4) Oct 06, 2011
no shirt no shoes no service
5 / 5 (3) Oct 06, 2011
In all, I find evidence to support the argument that wealth is an important prerequisite of marriage, especially for men.

The reason men aren't marrying as often is because in the U.S. system, a divorce often makes the man into the woman's perpetual slave.

It's also true that, inflation adjusted, and land value and energy cost adjusted, incomes for the middle and lower class are as low or lower than they've ever been in at least around 50 years.

The cost of living has tripled to quadrupled in my life time, but mean income has hardly gone up at all, and most of the "increase" mean is actually not at the "median" but is in the hands of the top 2% who make 100s or 1000s of times what everyone else makes.

So inflation adjusted, most people actually only make about 1/4th as much income as they did 30 or 40 years ago for the same or similar job.

This is another reason family size has shrunk from several down to 1 or 0 children, and yes, no marriage...
not rated yet Oct 06, 2011
I remember as a child, $0.76 cents per gallon gas.

Right now, at race track, I think it's $3.27 per gallon, which is actually down about 40 cents in the past few months. 74*4 equal $3.04, so even with the price having dropped 40 cents, we're still over 4 times higher than my oldest memories of gasoline prices.

The cost of owning and operating an automobile for it's life time is now somewhere near 25% to 30% of the mean income, depending on how far you commute to work. Then you gotta pay income taxes and other taxes...

So if you make around the mean income, by the time you pay income and sales taxes and pay for an automobile notes, maintenance, fuel, tax, title, licence, and insurance, you've already spent 40% to 50% of your income.
5 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2011
No money no honey...

My experience is, whereas the research in material sciences becomes abstract and esoteric gradually, the research in social sciences becomes more and more earthbound and trivial. It just supports my understanding of omnipresent dualities. Do we really need to pay for justification of every saying, which we can imagine? Or we are just facing the hidden overemployment of psychologists?

5 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2011
Well, I have a little money saved up and I rent a car whenever I need one, yet I don't marry.... not because I couldn't take care of a woman, but because I don't want to!
5 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2011
Yeah - chicks like cars. Big revelation.
5 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2011
ROBTHEGOB is too narrow. I observed years ago that females liked men with fat wallets, not fat stomachs. Although, they will put up with the fat stomach if the wallet is fat enough. The social contract goes back 100's of thousands of years in human history. Men took care of women and women gave men offspring and companionship.
Now with modern society and political correctness, women can be choosey-and are. The flip side is that men can be choosey, also.
Nanobanano is right in his observations. I can remember when gasoline was $0.25 a gallon. I grew up in a $10,000 house in Gary, IN.
not rated yet Oct 09, 2011
family values

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