New analysis of data from the Family Resources Survey and the General Household Survey shows that the trend away from marriage was largely confined to low income groups prior to the 1990s but is now spreading to families on middle income.
The Marriage Gap – across families of different age, education, employment and housing status – began to emerge for the first time during the 1970s.
But whereas the vast majority – 84% – of middle earning families with young children were still marrying in 1994, only 59% were married in 2012, a fall of 25% over 18 years.
Among mothers with children under five, the proportion of middle earners who are married has fallen faster than any other income group.
The Marriage Gap matters because couples who marry before having a child are more likely to stay together, thus avoiding the increased risks to income and child well-being if they split up.