Income inequality and nonmarital childbearing have both doubled in the last 30 years. Could the two be related?
A spate of recent books and articles argue that the 30-year surge in nonmarital childbearing and income inequality may actually be two sides of the same coin. Each trend helps reinforce the other: as deepening economic hardship strains relationship stability, low-income parents become increasingly apt to go it alone, thereby hobbling their prospects for upward mobility. At the same time, high-income earners are increasingly likely to marry each other, leading these families to further peel away from the rest.
|“The decline in marriage rates among poorer men and women robs parents of supplemental income, of work-life balance, and of time to prepare a child for school. Single-parenthood and intergenerational poverty feed each other. The marriage gap and the income gap amplify one another.” - Derek Thompson, The Atlantic “Scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality.” - Jason DeParle, New York Times
“Economic woes speed marital decline, as women see fewer ‘marriageable men.’ The opposite also holds true: marital decline compounds economic woes, since it leaves the needy to struggle alone.” - Jason DeParle, New York Times
“Forget the gender gap. The fundamental divide in the United States today runs along the lines of class and marriage. College-educated Americans and their children reap the benefits of comparatively stable, happy marriages, while less-educated Americans—especially the poor and the working-class—are more likely to struggle with family lives marked by discord and marital instability.” - W. Bradford Wilcox, The Wall Street Journal: Book Review of ‘Marriage Markets’ by June Carbone and Naomi Cahn
Click on the interactive visualization below to see the rate of nonmarital childbearing alongside the percentage of income held by the top 1% over the last 30 years.
– by Daniel Dillon, Staff Research Associate