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[Opinion] Marriage Gap

Posted May. 29, 2007 06:48,   


There are so many sayings about marriage. Montaigne said, “Marriage is like a cage. One sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out.” Socrates said, “As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will, he will be sure to repent.” There is also very practical advice from Benjamin Franklin, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards.”

It seems to be fair to add one more, “Marriage is the shortest way to escape poverty,” as married couples are forming a new and affluent class nowadays. The British weekly magazine, The Economist, said in its latest issue that there is a marriage gap in the U.S. and the divorce rate among the highly educated is low. On the other hand, that of the undereducated is rising. This marriage gap is worsening the inequality in the U.S. because once poor couples divorce, they tend to become even poorer, widening the gap between rich and poor.

According to The Economist, 92 percent of the people who earn more than $75,000 annually were born in wedlock. On the other hand, only 20 percent of the people whose annual income is under $15,000 were born in wedlock. Kids growing up with two biological parents are more likely to do better in school and succeed in society, which means that marriage of parents determines even the academic performance of their kids.

According to Barbara Whitehead and David Popenoe, who run the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, those who marry “till death do us part” end up, on average, four times richer than those who never marry. This is partly because marriage provides economies of scale — two can live more cheaply than one. And men, once married, tend to take their responsibilities seriously, so married men drink less and work harder, earning between 10-40 percent more income than single men with similar schooling and job histories. Furthermore, marriage encourages both spouses to save and invest more for the future.

Chung Sung-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com