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Marriage gap

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Title: Marriage gap  
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Subject: Generation gap, African-American family structure, Cohabitation, Household income in the United States, Gender role
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Marriage gap

The marriage gap describes observed economic and political disparities in the US between those who are married and those who are single. The marriage gap can be compared to, and should not be confused with, the gender gap.[1]

Politics and marriage

As part of the marriage gap, unmarried people are "considerably more liberal" than married people.[2] With little variation between professed moderates, married people respond to be conservative 9 percent more, and single people respond to be liberal 10 percent more.[3] Married people tend to hold political opinions that differ from those of people who have never married.

Party affiliation in the United States

In the U.S., being a married woman is correlated with a higher level of support for the Republican Party, and being single with the Democratic Party. There is no significant difference between married people. 32 percent of married people call themselves Republicans and 31 percent say they are Democrats, while among single people, 19 percent are Republicans and 38 percent Democrats.[2] The difference is most striking between married and single women. Married women respond as being Republicans 15 percent more; single women respond as being Democrats 11 percent more.[4]

Political issues

The marriage gap is evident on a range of political issues in the United States:

Marriage and cohabitation

It is not clear that legally or religiously formalized marriages are associated with better outcomes than long-term cohabitation. Part of the issue is that in many western countries, married couples will have cohabited before marrying, so that the stability of the resulting marriage might be attributable to the cohabitation having worked.

A chief executive of an organisation that studies relationships is quoted for having said:

"Because we now have the acceptance of long-term cohabitation, people who go into marriage and stay in marriage are a more homogenous group. They are people who believe in certain things that contribute to stability. So the selection effect is really important. Yes, it's true that married couples on average stay together longer than cohabiting couples. But cohabitation is such an unhelpful word, because it covers a whole ragbag of relationships, so it's not really comparable. We're better off talking about formal and informal marriages: those that have legal certificates, and those that don't. Is there any difference between a formal and informal marriage? If we really compare like with like, I'm not sure you'd see much difference." – Penny Mansfield[5]

Interpreting the data

The marriage gap is susceptible to multiple interpretations because it is not clear to what extent it is attributable to causation and what to correlation. It may be that people who already have a number of positive indicators of future wellbeing in terms of wealth and education are more likely to get married.

"The distinction between correlation and causation cuts to the heart of the debate about marriage. The evidence is unequivocal; children raised by married couples are healthier, do better at school, commit fewer crimes, go further in education, report higher levels of wellbeing. It is easy for politicians to deduce - and assert - that married couples therefore produce superior children. But the children do not necessarily do better because their parents are married and there is actually very little evidence that marriage alone, in the absence of anything else, benefits children." – Penny Mansfield[5]

See also


  1. ^ National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES).
  2. ^ a b c d e NAES.
  3. ^ Ibid. Definitions of moderate, conservative, and liberal were not given.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ a b Penny Mansfield quoted in the Guardian of 17-7-2007


  • Antonovics, Kate; Robert Town (2003-11-01). "Are All The Good Men Married? Uncovering the Sources of the Marital Wage Premium" (PDF). Department of Economics, UCSD 2003 (15). Retrieved 2007-05-30. Lay summary – eScholarship Repository (2007-05-30).  Cited in Varian.
  • Breusch, Trevor; Edith Gray (2004-09-17). "Does marriage improve the wages of men and women in Australia?" (PDF). 12th Biennial Conference. Australian Population Association. Archived from the original on 2006-11-04. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  • Cauchon, Dennis (2006-09-27). "Marriage gap could sway elections". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  • Ellwood, David T.; Christopher Jencks (October 2002). "The Spread of Single-Parent Families in the United States since 1960" (PDF). Harvard University. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  • Hymowitz, Kay S. (December 2006). "Marriage and Caste". City Journal. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  • Jacoby, Jeff (2006-03-12). "The politics of female voters". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  • "Marriage Gap Bigger than Gender Gap" (Press release). National Annenberg Election Survey, NAES. 2004-07-02. Retrieved 2000-05-30. 
  • Varian, Hal R. (2004-07-29). "Analyzing the Marriage Gap". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  • Wilson, J. Matthew; Michael Lusztig (December 2004). "The Spouse in the House: What Explains the Marriage Gap in Canada?" (PDF). Southern Methodist University. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 

External links

  • Social Science Research Network: Household Specialization And The Male Marriage Wage Premium
  • Danish National Institute of Social Research: An Analysis of the Male Marital Wage Differential in Denmark
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