The Woodward News

Community News Network

February 5, 2014

Why marrying your equal can boost inequality

WASHINGTON — Rich and poor Americans are slowly but surely staking out separate lives. Increasingly, they have been moving to different communities, and more frequently they are also marrying people of similar income and educational backgrounds. This is a phenomenon social scientists call assortative mating.

In 2005, 58 percent of wives with a high school diploma were married to men with the same amount of education, new research by economist Jeremy Greenwood of the University of Pennsylvania and three colleagues shows. In 1960, by contrast, only 42 percent of wives with high school diplomas were married to men with the same level of education.

The phenomenon is happening at the top of the education distribution, too. In 2005, 43 percent of wives with college degrees were married to men who also had college degrees. In 1960, the share was 33 percent.

 What are the effects of this increased marital sorting? For one thing, it contributes to income inequality. If marriages occurred randomly across educational categories, Greenwood and his co-authors show, the Gini coefficient for household income in the U.S. in 2005 would decline to 0.34 from 0.43. (The coefficient falls as inequality decreases.) That would more than offset the entire increase in inequality that has occurred since the late 1960s. (This comparison is not entirely fair because even in the late 1960s, some assortative mating occurred. Nonetheless, it shows how large the effect is.)

Marital sorting also affects women's participation in the workforce. Since the 1970s, the correlation between the wages of husband and wife has doubled, Christian Bredemeier and Falko Juessen of the University of Dortmund found. Over the same period, wives of high-income men have increased their working hours more than wives of low-income husbands have.

In the 1970s, wives with high-earning husbands tended to work fewer hours than other wives did. Assortative mating changed the pattern.

Finally, marital sorting may be having some effect on geographical mobility. Cross-state mobility rates have been falling in the United States, research by Raven Molloy and Christopher Smith of the Federal Reserve and Abigail Wozniak of the University of Notre Dame has found.

In my role on the boards of nonprofits, I have seen many job offers declined because a move would be required, and the person's spouse would have to leave behind a promising career. Because finding two good jobs in a new city is much harder than finding just one, is it possible that this "co-location problem" for dual-earning couples with increasingly similar incomes and educational backgrounds is discouraging mobility?

Well-educated couples tend to live in large cities because it increases the chance that both spouses can find an adequate job, research by Dora Costa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Matthew Kahn of the University of California at Los Angeles suggests. Another piece of evidence comes from the cross-state mobility rates themselves. Since the 1980s, they have fallen almost by half among dual-earning couples, while the rate for single (or no) earners has fallen by only a third. Yet Molloy finds some evidence that these differential trends have had only a modest effect on total mobility rates (after other factors are taken into account).

In any case, assortative mating indicates why trying to bridge the increasing divides between rich and poor in the U.S. is so complicated and difficult. If income inequality is being driven in part by changes in marriage patterns, what can anyone do about that?

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 15, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Stocks