Keeping up with the neighbours: the influence of local wealth and faith on marriage

The type of neighbourhood you live in has a direct impact on whether you chose to marry, the Marriage Foundation has found.

In prosperous areas, not only are rich people more likely to be married, the poorer people living there are also likely to have followed suit and tied the knot.

Previous Marriage Foundation research has shown that 87 per cent of higher earners are married while on average only 24 per cent those on low incomes are wed, but this is the first time it has been revealed that the distinction, the so-called marriage gap, is reduced for poor people living in rich areas.

West Berkshire, the area where Pippa Middleton married on Saturday, seven in ten (68 per cent) people are married, has one of the highest rates in the country. Among lower earners 35 per cent are married, higher than the average.

The new Marriage Foundation report, which analyses the latest census data, also reveals that religious neighbours can influence the decisions of low earners. In more religious areas, low earners are more likely to me married, but the same does not apply for higher earners.

Harry Benson, research director of Marriage Foundation, commented: “This new analysis reveals for the first time a ‘lace-curtain effect.’ If our neighbours are married, we are more likely to get married ourselves.

“It is encouraging that when we see the stability of families around us in our local community, we want the same for ourselves.

“The fact is for the better off, marriage is as prevalent as it’s ever been. Nine out of ten high-earning parents are married. They have been able to avoid the damaging trend towards cohabiting and lone parenthood.

“It is for those at the bottom that marriage rates have fallen away. As a result, we have seen a rising tide of family breakdown, which has a very real impact effect on the lives of particularly the children involved.

Sir Paul Coleridge, founder and chairman of Marriage Foundation, commented: “It’s not right that we should see such a divide between those who are already at a disadvantage and the most privileged.

“The evidence shows those who marry are more likely to enjoy far greater family stability and the benefits that go alongside it – better attainment at school, better job prospects and better physical and mental health. In short, children of parents who stay together have better life prospects than children from broken families.

“If poorer families can benefit from a culture of marriage in richer areas, so much the better. But it is unacceptable that this divide should be allowed to continue.

“The government needs to address the disincentives to marriage in the tax system which impact the decisions of those at the bottom the most.”


Here you can download the Research Briefing Paper as a PDF and the Press Release where it is available.

Media Links

The Sunday Times, 21 May 2017
By Nicholas Hellen, Social Affairs Editor: Marriage map reveals tie between wealth and wedded bliss

Mail Online, 22 May 2017
By Amie Gordon: Wealthy couples in more affluent areas are less likely to divorce and push up marriage rates among their poorer neighbours, study finds

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