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The marriage gap describes observed economic and political disparities 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]

Economic differences

There is a direct correlation between marital status and social class in some countries.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Unmarried parents tend to be poorer in the West than their married counterparts, and poor young people are more likely to become single parents. However, this is usually due to taxation overwhelmingly favouring married couples [How to reference and link to summary or text].

Married couples tend to be richer than single parents. It has been claimed [How to reference and link to summary or text] that this is in part because of the opportunity for specialization. When at least one spouse is able to focus on market work or home production it will generally make sense to specialize.[2] Specialization has a demonstrably enriching effect on families by improving efficiency, reducing training time, increasing productivity, and allowing parents to become more skillful in their divided responsibilities.[3]Clearly, the advantages of specialisation would also apply to stable unmarried couples.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

The "marriage wage premium" is another observed economic advantage in marriage, though a direct causation between marriage and wages is not proven. This premium is the extra income that married men earn over unmarried men. In the U.S. the premium is estimated to be an extra ten to 50 percent.[4] In Australia, legally married men enjoy a premium of just over $2 an hour.[5] Explanations for the premium are debated between causation (based on increased productivity) and correlation (based on spousal selection).[6][7] Studies show support for only productivity,[8] only selection,[9] and both.[10]

Politics and marriage

As part of the marriage gap, unmarried people are "considerably more liberal" than married people.[11] 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.[12]

Party affiliation

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's no significant difference between married people. Thirty-two 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.[13] 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.[14]

Political issues

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

  • same-sex marriage, 11% more married people favor Constitutional amendments disallowing it[15]
  • abortion, 14% more married people favor completely banning it[16]
  • school vouchers, 3% more married people favor them[17]

Interpreting the data

The neutrality of this section is disputed.

The marriage gap is a controversial phenomenon, because it is not clear to what extent it is attributable to causation — getting married makes people become intolerant, etc — and to what extent is attributable to correlation — forbidding people to marry makes them less likely to get married. "We'd have to do a controlled experiment with very similar people, and let one lot get married, and the other not, and that isn't going to happen". [18]

See also


  1. National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES).
  2. Ellwood and Jencks, p. 15
  3. See general advantages of labor division.
  4. Varian, "labor economists estimate that even when you control for age, education and other demographic effects, the 'marriage wage premium' is 10 percent to 50 percent."
  5. Breusch and Gray, p. 11
  6. Varian, "[Antonovics and Town (2003)] suggests that marriage really does have a causal impact on wages."
  7. Breusch and Gray, p. 1, productivity is based on specialization, and selection means that "a man who is favoured in the labour market is also favoured as a potential marriage partner (and vice versa)."
  8. Abstract of Why do married men earn more: productivity or marriage selection?
  9. Abstract of …What Males Gain a Wage Premium?
  10. Breusch and Gray, p. 12
  11. NAES.
  12. Ibid. Definitions of moderate, conservative, and liberal were not given.
  13. NAES.
  14. Ibid.
  15. NAES.
  16. NAES.
  17. NAES.
  18. Penny Mansfield of One Plus One, quoted in the Guardian of 17-7-2007


External links

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