Home Economics: Marriage Rates and the Lottery

A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 9 2012 8:43 AM

Home Economics: Marriage Rates and the Lottery

I wouldn't have thought that the question of why working class marriage rates have fallen would be a sharply partisan issues. But since Charles Murray  decided that moral decay is to blame, many of his critics have started countering that poor economic outlook for working class men over the past decade is the issue. The obvious third hypothesis, it seems to me, is that with women's social and economic opportunities much improved over the past several decades they're less reliant on marriage as a form of social and economic support.

Some backing for that thesis can be found in Scott Hankins and Mark Hoekstra "The Effect of Random Income Shocks on Marriage and Divorce" which studied lottery winners in Florida:

Results indicate that large income shocks significantly reduce the likelihood that single women marry. Specifically, we find that single women are six percentage points less likely to marry in the three years following the positive income shock, which represents a 40 percent decline. This suggests that additional income may remove some incentive for single women to marry, at least over the short-term.
In contrast, large cash transfers do not affect the marriage rates of men or induce couples to divorce. We find that the divorce rate of married recipients of $25,000 to $50,000 in the three years following the income shock is between one-half and one percentage point lower that that of recipients of $1,000, which is small both in absolute terms and relative to the baseline 3-year divorce rate of 8.5 percent. Estimates also allow us to rule out large absolute positive net effects of income shocks on divorce rates: even the upper bound of the 95 percent confidence interval implies that fewer than 1 in 70 married couples will divorce due to the positive income shock of $25,000 to $50,000.
Advertisement

That's hardly the last word on this, but it seems to me like the correct place to be looking. Austen (1813) argued that "it is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl of a certain age, and in a certain situation in life, must be in want of a husband." If social and economic trends over the past several decades have reduced the supply of girls in that "certain situation in life" then marriage rates should decline completely regardless of what happens with men.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 12:36 PM Krispy Kreme Stuffed Half a Million Calories Into One Box of Doughnuts
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 23 2014 11:33 AM High-Concept Stuff Designed to Remind People That They Don’t Need Stuff  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon Who Wasn’t
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 10:51 AM Is Apple Picking a Fight With the U.S. Government? Not exactly.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google Exec: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.