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Old 07-17-2012, 03:13 PM   #1
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Marriage: The Great Equalizer?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/us...&smid=fb-share

Outstanding article. Long, but worth the read. Basically it sums up the stats that indicate that one of the things really negatively affecting the middle class and the poor economically is the decrease in marriage rates and the increase in single parenthood.

In sum: the rich are more likely to get married and stay married and this actually helps them maintain their socioeconomic status.

What say you, tribe?

Something in there for the "pro-family" conservatives, sure. But perhaps also an argument for same-sex marriage as well?

One thing is sure, two good parents are better than one good parent. I can't imagine raising my kids alone.
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Old 07-17-2012, 03:47 PM   #2
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i think the "marriage gap" is more a symptom of the goods and benefits of a society flowing ever more towards the top than a cause. men with good jobs and living wages are less likely to be deadbeat dads, and women who can afford housing, education, and health care on a single income (as used to be possible) are less likely to perpetuate the poverty cycle.

marriage rates are falling in Scandinavia and yet poverty and economic strife amongst single mothers there is barely a blip on the radar compared to the US.

it's an interesting topic for discussion, absolutely.
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Old 07-17-2012, 04:16 PM   #3
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Really good article, thanks Sean.

I posted something similar here a little while ago that was sort of on this topic, but it seems like lately there has been a lot written on the marriage gap. You'll see quite a bit of statistical research about the upper middle and upper classes getting married and a lot of hypotheses that things started to change when executive men decided that they didn't want stay-at-home wives or nurses or teachers and instead started pairing off with women who were on their professional and salary level. Which actually then promotes income inequality not just between the non-marrieds but between wealthy marrieds.

For example, if you take a guy who makes $150K per year, and think back to 40 years ago, maybe he would have married a woman who either stayed at home or made some $30K per year (nevermind inflation adjusted numbers for now). Therefore the couple had a joint income of $150-180K annually. You also had people in the middle class marrying each other, let's estimate a $60-70K joint income there. But what's happening now is that many if not most men who make $150K are marrying women who also make $150K so that you have a class at $300K, and a class at $60K and then single parents at $30K. That is a huge disparity right there.

That's why I think that it's not really just people who are married and raising kids vs. single parents as suggested in this article. 40 or 50 years ago you had greater mobility within marriage whereas these days we are moving more and more towards almost a socio-economic caste system.
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Old 07-17-2012, 04:44 PM   #4
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This is also the subject of Charles Murray's new book.

Charles Murray on the New American Divide - WSJ.com

The ideal of an 'American way of life' is fading as the working class falls further away from institutions like marriage and religion and the upper class becomes more isolated.
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Old 07-17-2012, 06:42 PM   #5
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This is also the subject of Charles Murray's new book.

Charles Murray on the New American Divide - WSJ.com

The ideal of an 'American way of life' is fading as the working class falls further away from institutions like marriage and religion and the upper class becomes more isolated.
Yeah, his book is mentioned in the NY Times article.
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Old 07-17-2012, 06:49 PM   #6
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i think there's also a crisis of masculinity with the shrinking of manufacturing/blue collar jobs in the US. men don't stay because they can no longer provide.
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Old 07-17-2012, 07:33 PM   #7
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i think there's also a crisis of masculinity with the shrinking of manufacturing/blue collar jobs in the US. men don't stay because they can no longer provide.
The Atlantic covered that in a recent issue.

Quote:
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
The End of Men - Hanna Rosin - The Atlantic

Heads up: its a long article, but it is thought provoking. As I read it, I wondered what sort of world would my children have if things keep going the way they are. Of course, I'm not against the advancement of women, its just I feel bad if some men feel forgotten.
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Old 07-17-2012, 08:27 PM   #8
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Tf course, I'm not against the advancement of women, its just I feel bad if some men feel forgotten.
Eh, we'll be alright.

The future belongs to those of us who can adjust to new realities.
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Old 07-17-2012, 10:19 PM   #9
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Eh, we'll be alright.

The future belongs to those of us who can adjust to new realities.
That's true.
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:35 PM   #10
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i think the "marriage gap" is more a symptom of the goods and benefits of a society flowing ever more towards the top than a cause. men with good jobs and living wages are less likely to be deadbeat dads, and women who can afford housing, education, and health care on a single income (as used to be possible) are less likely to perpetuate the poverty cycle.

marriage rates are falling in Scandinavia and yet poverty and economic strife amongst single mothers there is barely a blip on the radar compared to the US.
I don't know. . .the two women in the article essentially came from the same type of middle class background, so it wasn't necessarily a case of more benefits flowing to the already-successful.

In Scandanavia they have a soul-less and soul-sucking Big Government social safety net run by death panel bureaucrats that might prevent the poverty and economic strife to a degree.

But then, one would think that all those Big Government handouts would take away the Scandanavian's motivation to work and lead them to life of dependency at the Big Gov's teat. . .

I'm confused about that part. . .
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Old 07-18-2012, 10:48 AM   #11
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I don't know. . .the two women in the article essentially came from the same type of middle class background, so it wasn't necessarily a case of more benefits flowing to the already-successful.
I think that a large part of it has to do with the reasons for marriage. Professional, upper middle or upper class people get married for different reasons and at a different age typically than high school graduates (or drop outs).
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Old 07-18-2012, 11:31 AM   #12
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Very true.
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Old 07-19-2012, 02:32 AM   #13
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marriage rates are falling in Scandinavia and yet poverty and economic strife amongst single mothers there is barely a blip on the radar compared to the US.
I think that's partly because they have hardly any "single mothers," at least in terms of what we normally picture when we hear that. Only about 3% of Swedish children are born to mothers who aren't living with the child's father, whereas more than 20% of American children are. And, there as elsewhere in Western Europe, both cohabiting relationships (the majority of Swedish parents) and marriages last considerably longer than their US counterparts, so children are much less likely to experience family instability as they grow up. There are both structural factors (less economic inequality in the first place; subsidized daycare; guaranteed paid maternity and paternity leave; guaranteed 'flextime' work options for both mothers and fathers of preschool children) and cultural factors (less hyperindividualism) involved in that, but at any rate it seems to have some preventive effects against the postindustrial devaluation of fathers/crisis of masculinity you and Pearl were both talking about.
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Old 07-19-2012, 12:00 PM   #14
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I guess I never considered wealth or socioeconomic status when I got married. Given the progression of our relationship, marriage just made sense. We got along, wanted to live together (already did off and on), agreed on all the important things such as when/if we were having a family....We never sat down and did the math as far as our combined salaries and all that. We're both good and making do with what we have. But, maybe this is further evidence of social class? We both got married with nothing, so it didn't matter. We bought our first house together. I bought my first vehicle after I got married. We didn't come into marriage with assets and six figure salaries.
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Old 07-19-2012, 01:31 PM   #15
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^ Yeah, that was basically us too, albeit with some differences in our backgrounds (my family had been highly educated but not well-off; husband's family had been moderately well-educated and moderately well-off). But if/when you have a kid you'll have to "sit down and do some math," and you'll have to redo it repeatedly as s/he grows and/or is joined by new siblings, and then if one or both of you cuts back on career to some degree while your child(ren) are small then returns to full-speed-ahead later, that too will require more "math," not to mention significant readjustments in the relationship/household dynamic you'd become used to--we're kind of in the tail end of that phase now. Everything gets more complicated and more consequential once there are children in the picture, and the burden of responsibility towards them will at times feel heavier than that towards your spouse/partner. And I can definitely see where having more "assets" statistically improves your chances at that point, not just in the sense that more cushion=less external stress, but also in the sense that that mindset of shared acquisitive goals and attainment of a certain "lifestyle" which better-off couples have from the beginning probably helps prepare you for thinking of yourselves as partners in a project against which everything else either of you does must be referenced. When you both have to work just to barely scrape by (or worse), it's much harder to maintain that sense of "going someplace together" which the older division of household labor to some degree provided, even in the absence of much income coming in.
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Old 07-19-2012, 01:55 PM   #16
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"Partners in a project" - I like that! I can definitely relate to that. Buying the house was a huge deal for us, and even a year later every single time I pull in the driveway and open the door I have a sense of satisfaction that we got the house we wanted and needed and aren't house poor in the process. I also have the satisfaction of knowing that nothing was ever handed to us. We paid (or are paying for since Phil is still in school for graduate degrees) our own educations which got our jobs which allowed us to get our house and comfortably afford it and our modest lifestyle. It just seems foreign to me that people making six figures are mulling over whether they can get married when people making less than half that combined are living comfortably and raising families.

As to the original post, being married will most definitely help me personally as far as socioeconomic status but it did not factor into my decision of who to marry and when. Phil will end up with graduate degrees and is "worth" more than I am but hindsight is 20/20. He has switched careers since we met and since we got married. I personally have never put much weight in marriage being "equal" and that goes way beyond breadwinning. Phil is definitely more career-minded. He likes to work and gets hopelessly bored at home, whereas I do 99% of the "household" stuff as far as cleaning, budgeting, paying bills, doing taxes, normal upkeep (like if there's a leak or the dryer breaks down, I get that taken care of). I can't stand sitting at work doing something mindless knowing that I have three unfinished projects at home. At the end of the day, we both put about equal effort into the marriage, the household, and the finances but the actual tasks are in no way split 50/50 and I don't want or expect them to be.
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Old 07-19-2012, 05:52 PM   #17
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My wife and I have shifted the dynamic if you will significantly in recent years. When we were in Saipan and had no kids, we both worked full time though she made about twice as much as I did. We split up the household chores, and went so far as taking turns by week being responsible for cooking.

Now my wife works part time and I make significantly more than she does. We have a more "traditional" arrangement where she does most of the housework (although I still have sole responsibility for the laundry and the dishes) and I am the main "breadwinner."

The common thread is that we've never made decisions based on who is "supposed" to do what, but on what makes sense for us at a particular point in our lives.
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Old 07-20-2012, 08:23 AM   #18
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It just seems foreign to me that people making six figures are mulling over whether they can get married when people making less than half that combined are living comfortably and raising families.
To be honest, I know a lot of people in that socioeconomic bracket and I haven't met a single couple who was mulling over whether they can get married.

But there are certain things that affect people in that bracket that may not be obvious (I'm talking about the ones who came there from modest families, not trust fund babies). For example, almost everyone that I know who makes over $100K shares the following traits/circumstances: (i) massive student loans because they are typically doctors/lawyers/MBAs who paid for two very expensive degrees; (ii) unmarried - whether single or dating/cohabiting - at a much later age because most were unwilling or unable to get married while they were still students; (iii) living in expensive urban centres where houses like yours might cost 8-10x as much but they are not making 8-10x as much as you may be on an annual basis; (iv) work at a minimum 60 hours a week, but usually closer to 70-80 on average and many of them will put off getting married or have very long engagements because frankly they barely have time to do their own laundry much less plan a wedding. Just some food for thought.

On a personal note, when my partner moved in with me, we actually had a full disclosure financial session - all our accounts, savings, retirement plans, investments, and we also built savings models for us - what we want to save as a couple for purchasing a home, what we want to put in our retirement base every month, and so on. We were actually extremely meticulous, but this could be b/c I'm living with an economist. I don't think I'd have been that organized about it on my own.
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Old 07-20-2012, 09:29 AM   #19
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But there are certain things that affect people in that bracket that may not be obvious (I'm talking about the ones who came there from modest families, not trust fund babies). For example, almost everyone that I know who makes over $100K shares the following traits/circumstances: (i) massive student loans because they are typically doctors/lawyers/MBAs who paid for two very expensive degrees; (ii) unmarried - whether single or dating/cohabiting - at a much later age because most were unwilling or unable to get married while they were still students; (iii) living in expensive urban centres where houses like yours might cost 8-10x as much but they are not making 8-10x as much as you may be on an annual basis; (iv) work at a minimum 60 hours a week, but usually closer to 70-80 on average and many of them will put off getting married or have very long engagements because frankly they barely have time to do their own laundry much less plan a wedding. Just some food for thought.

this pretty much describes our life. combined with the fact that we'd have to move across the river to DC to get married since VA hates us, and that would likely necessitate buying property first, which entails a colossal down payment, which is all intimidating. and then even a bare-bones city wedding that would cost an easy $10k (a standard wedding would be $50k). granted, one doesn't need to have a reception at all, but still ... most people want one, and most people want one for you. i'm lucky in that i don't have any student loan debt as i've managed to make a comparable salary with just a BA, but Memphis has some (since he's paid for everything himself since he was 17). and then for a gay male couple, kids are very expensive. unless you go the foster care route, you're looking at expensive adoption or even more expensive surrogacy.

the costs of living just seem incredibly daunting. we have a great life in a small but modern-with-amenities highrise, and we have the money to go out to eat and on vacation within reason. but to get married and buy a home and then adopt would probably take us reigning in our lives and saving considerably for 2-3 years. which may be necessary. but add that to the time needed to even look at property and it just seems so much easier to maintain the pleasant status quo. (but, obvy, that's my decision ... i certainly could, but it seems so complicated and expensive.)
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