For some time now, scholars like W. Bradford Wilcox at the University of Virginia and Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute have been telling us that marriage is becoming an upper class phenomenon. More accurately, they have been pointing to the fact that lower-income Americans have been progressively abandoning marriage for the last two decades.
Now, along comes Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic, making many of the same points. Thompson points to an analysis of census data that reveals the vast economic consequences of this abandonment. Put bluntly, the failure to marry dramatically increases the likelihood of poverty and continued economic retreat.
According to this new data, the average American family with married parents and at least one child under age 18 living in the same home earned $81,000 last year. Interestingly, almost all of the actual growth in this average family’s income in recent years has come from the wife working. Thompson directs our attention to this fact in order to make his larger point: our marriage crisis is making income inequality worse. Those who are getting married and staying married are, on average, moving ahead in the economy. In contrast, those who are not married are falling behind-fast. Add to this the fact that when people marry, they tend to marry someone who shares the same work ethic. The strong get stronger and the weak get weaker.