ABOUT MARRIAGE FOUNDATION

Whilst establishing our USP as the UK’s prime source for reliable, in-depth research and comment on marriage, commitment and the family, we have produced some 70 research reports and briefing notes, sometimes in collaboration with professors of social science both in the UK and USA.

With over 1300 media appearances, including interviews, articles and quotations, we have consistently penetrated public debate via all main news and current affairs programmes, national newspapers, magazines, and local and talk radio stations.

Over the next few years our particular focus will be on the glaring “Marriage Gap”: why the rich marry and the poor don’t. Our research director, Harry Benson, is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Bristol exploring this whole subject.

We have made great progress in our first decade, BUT there is still much to do and we would really value your support via a contribution to the campaign. 

Very many thanks. 

WHY MARRIAGE IS A SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUE

THE MARRIAGE GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR

Our previous analysis of data from the Family Resources Survey reveals that, among mothers with children under 5, 87% of those in higher-income groups are married compared to just 24% of those in lower-income groups – i.e., “The Marriage Gap” (Aug 2015). 

The Marriage Gap 
% of new mothers who are married, by income 

WHY MARRIAGE MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Marriage is a social justice issue because the Marriage Gap leads to unnecessarily high levels of family breakdown among the poorest who need stability most. When couples split up, family resources become diluted and lone parent families are especially vulnerable to poverty. 

In short, we will never get to grips with poverty until we confront the role of family stability. 

MARRIAGE MAKES EVEN THE POOREST PARENTS MORE LIKELY TO STAY TOGETHER THAN THE RICHEST, UNMARRIED COHABITEES

In our tenth anniversary analysis of data from the UK Longitudinal Household Survey, we found that the probability of parents splitting up during any 1-year period between 2009 and 2018 was more than THREE TIMES higher if they were not married. 

Married parents: On average, 1.9% of married parents split up in any given year (1.0% among the richest to 2.8% of the poorest). 

Cohabiting parents: On average, 6.5% of cohabiting parents split up in any given year (2.9% among the richest to 8.9% of the poorest). 

Even after taking into account a mother’s age, education, ethnicity, household income and relationship happiness, the odds of splitting up if not married were still nearly DOUBLE. 

In other words, even the poorest, married parents achieve greater stability than the richest, cohabiting parents. 

% of parents who split up during a 1-year period 
UKLHS 2009-10, 2011-12, 2013-14, 2015-16, 2017-18 
by marital status and household income 

MARRIAGE PROTECTS TEEN MENTAL HEALTH

 Our analysis of data from 10,929 mothers with 14-year-old children in the Millennium Cohort Study reveals how family breakdown is the single biggest factor in teenage mental health problems for girls and equal top factor for boys (along with parental relationship happiness) (Nov 2017). 

 High levels of mental health problems aged 14
by sex and parental marital status 

IN CONCLUSION

Marriage bonds couples together. It provides the strongest platform of reliability and stability from which families can maximise their financial resources as well as love, time, potential and innate abilities. It boosts well-being and it buffers against poverty.

BUT the poorest are put off marriage by policymakers who, whilst invariably embracing it in their private lives, are indifferent in their public statements, and by perverse incentives in government welfare policy – a ‘couple penalty’ – that financially disincentivises marriage or indeed any formal commitment.

In short, marriage provides the best buffer against the risk of family breakdown and thus increased poverty. And this is why marriage is a social justice issue, and why Marriage Foundation has been, and remains, an unashamed champion of marriage.

OTHER KEY MARRIAGE FOUNDATION FINDINGS

 Marriage is still overwhelmingly popular: In our survey of young unmarried adults aged 18-30, more than 80% said they ‘would like to get married at some point in their life’ (May 2021). 

Meeting online: One in four couples now meet online, but our survey of married adults over 30 found that they face six times greater divorce risk in their first few years compared to those who met through family and friends. This highlights the importance of social capital (Oct 2021). 

Wedding costs: They are now in the range of £5,000-£10,000, far below the £30,000 figure often advertised by ‘big wedding’ magazines. This myth-busting research is especially important because ‘cost of wedding’ is put as one of the biggest reasons couples say they haven’t married (Feb 2022). 

Divorce rates are now at their lowest level since the 1960s: As social pressure to marry has disappeared, those who do marry are more committed (Feb 2021). 

A ‘divorce boom’ following the pressures of lockdown? There is no hard evidence for this. In fact, survey data suggests married parents have coped amazingly well. The group who has struggled most has been cohabiting mothers, who face the most ambiguity in their relationships (Feb 2021). 

We have made great progress in our first decade, BUT there is still much to do and we would really value your support via a contribution to the campaign. 

Very many thanks. 

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