Marriage and inequality

Date posted: February 24, 2014

 

One of the most debated topics in the country today is income inequality and the perception that it is increasing. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden says one of the many reasons behind the trend may be marriage.

“Well, of course Mary, there’s the old adage in marriage and in personal relationships that opposites sometimes attract. And I think people will comment about you and me that is certainly the case with our personalities. But there appears to be one characteristic where opposites don’t attract with respect to finding a mate, and that is with respect to education.

“What the data clearly show is that people tend to marry or have a relationship with other people with the same educational standing. It is to say that a college person will marry or have a partnership with another college person. A high school person will have a marriage or relationship with another high school person. And that’s fine and that’s understandable. Likely education determines a lot of common interests. But with respect to income, what this has done is really expand the difference between people with high income and low income.

“One of the things we’ve noticed in the data over the last twenty or thirty years is that getting a college education really moves you ahead income wise, much more than it used to as compared to someone, let’s say, who stops at high school. Therefore, if you put two college-educated people together, both getting college-educated jobs, compared to two high school educated people together. the difference is going to be even wider. And actually economists who have looked at this find that marriage and the fact that people married like people with the same education as one of the big factors behind increasing income inequality.”

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