Marriage and Economic Well Being: The Economy of the Family Rises or Falls with Marriage

Posted By on January 5, 2014

Patrick F. Fagan, Andrew J. Kidd and Henry Potrykus

Executive Summary

The economic well-being of the United States is strongly related to marriage, which is a choice about how we channel our sexuality. The implications of sexual choices are apparent when comparing family structures across basic economic measures such as employment, income, net worth, poverty, receipt of welfare, and child economic well-being. In all of these the stable, intact married family outperforms other sexual partnering structures; hence the economy rises with the former and encounters more difficulties and inefficiencies as it diverges from it.

Family Structures and Economic Outcomes:

  • Employment and Income. Married-couple families generate the most income, on average. Young married men are more likely to be in the labor force, employed, and working a full-time job than their nonmarried counterparts. Cohabiting men have less stable employment histories than single and married men. Married families generally earn higher incomes than stepfamilies, cohabiting families, divorced families, separated families, and single-parent families. According to one study, married couples had a median household income twice that of divorced households and four times the household income of separated households.
  • Net Worth. Intact, married families have the greatest net worth. A family’s net worth is the value of all its assets minus any liabilities it holds. Married households’ net worth is attributable to more than simply having two adults in the household: a longer-term economic outlook, thrift, and greater head-of-household earning ability (the marriage premium) all contribute to greater household net worth.
  • Poverty and Welfare. Poverty rates are significantly higher among cohabiting families and single-parent families than among married families. Over one third of single mothers live in poverty. Nearly 60 percent of non-teenage single mothers rely on food stamps or cash welfare payments.
  • Child Economic Mobility and Well-Being. Children in married, two-parent families enjoy more economic well-being than children in any other family structure. Children in cohabiting families enjoy less economic well-being than children in married families, but more than children in single-parent families. The children of married parents also enjoy relatively strong upward mobility. By contrast, divorce is correlated with downward mobility. A non-intact family background increases by over 50 percent a boy’s odds of ending up in the lowest socioeconomic level.

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Recommended Reading
Making Sense of Your Dollars: A Biblical Approach to Wealth
Three Decades of Fertility
The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household
There’s No Place Like Work: How Business, Government, and Our Obsession with Work Have Driven Parents from Home

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