The Marriage Gap: The rich get married (and stay together). The poor don’t

According to the Office for National Statistics, 53% of births are to married parents. However this total figure conceals a dramatic variation in the prevalence of marriage – the Marriage Gap.

Our new analysis of data from the Family Resources Survey (FRS) reveals that, among mothers with children under five, 87% of those in higher income groups are married compared to just 24% of those in lower income groups. This represents a difference in ‘odds ratios’ of six times.

Further analysis of General Household Survey (GHS) data going back to 1972 shows that a Marriage Gap has opened up across mothers of different ages, those who buy rather than rent, those with a degree or not, those who smoke or not, and those who work or not.

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.


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

Media Links

The Telegraph, 22nd August 2015
By Patrick Sawer: “Wealthy four times more likely to marry than the poor”
The Times, 24th August 2015
By Rosemary Bennett: “Poor couples turning backs on marriage”

The Guardian, 24th August 2015
By Nash Riggins: “Marriage is like a monstrous and costly Disney panto, but it’s worth it”

National Deseret News, 25th August 2015
By Herb Scribner: “Why the rich are more likely to get married than the poor”

Church Times, 28th August 2015
By Madeleine Davies: “‘Liberal elite’ accused of hypocrisy on marriage”

Family breakdown costs £50bn a year

When couples split up, families move from one to two households. Poverty is a common outcome that affects children. Six out of ten lone parents are supported by the state compared to one out of ten couple parents. That’s where most of the £50bn is spent.

UK Among highest family breakdown in Europe

Five years ago, the UK had the highest rate of family breakdown in Europe. We’re not doing as badly today, but only because of big falls in divorce rates. Alas there’s no sign of a similar improvement among cohabitees

Lower Divorce Rates – Higher Lone Parents

Divorce rates have plummeted over the past 3 decades, but the number of lone parents has doubled in the same period. Why?… Because unmarried parents make up only one in five cohabiting parents but are responsible for one half of all family breakdown.

Stability is found in Marriage

Whereas stability is the norm if parents are married (75% stay together), it is the exception if they are not (30% stay together). As a result, among parents of teens who are still together as a couple, nine out of ten are married

Single Most Important Factor

The single most important factor in a child’s healthy development is the stable relationship of the parents. Our groundbreaking research shows that family breakdown is the #1 predictor of teenage mental health problems.

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