Recent research has been carried out in the US to investigate why some cohabiting couples go on to get married while others end up separating.
According to Patrick Ishizuka, from the Cornell Population Center, couples who live together are most likely to get married when their earnings are equivalent to couples who are already married. In addition, the risk of separation is lower when both partners in the relationship earn a similar amount.
“Once couples have reached a certain income and wealth threshold, they’re more likely to marry,” said Ishizuka, who researches work, families, and social inequality. “Economically disadvantaged couples are also more likely to separate.”
“They want to have a house and a car and enough savings to have a big wedding; and they also want to have stable jobs and a steady income,” he added.
These findings are seen as a validation of a theory known as “the marriage bar”, which is based on the idea that the likelihood of couples marrying increases the closer they get to the economic standards associated with marriage, for example being able to afford to buy a house.
However, Ishizuka highlights that this can contribute to the widening of the socioeconomic divide that exists amongst families.
“Marriage is increasingly reserved for couples that have achieved a high economic standard,” he explained. “Rising divorce rates since the 1960s have also been steepest for individuals with less education.”
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