Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Marriage and Money

Over that the dish, they're arguing that one of the reasons poor people don't get married is because they can't afford a wedding. Apparently, since a wedding costs, on average $27,000, lots of people refrain from getting married so as to avoid advertising their lack of resources to others. Now, I'm sure that this happens, but as an even partial explanation as to why marriage rates in America are lower in low income communities, it is extremely weak. I can think of at least two reasons why.
First, this argument ignores that people tend to fall into particular income groups. Rich Americans tend to know other rich Americans. Poor Americans tend to know poor Americans. It's disturbing but true. So most low-income people are not stressed out about competing with their best friend's $40,000 wedding bash. Of course, there are people who will feel compelled to compete, but they will also tend, almost by definition, to be rich and college educated. The sort of people writers for the dish will tend to know...
Second, this argument potentially confuses cause and effect. As marriage becomes more common among the rich and less common among the poor, the cost of weddings is obviously going to go up. Back when everyone was expected to get married, the cost would have been much lower, because there were more modest weddings. Those modest weddings brought the average cost down. Now, as marriage increasingly becomes an option that we don't expect for poorer Americans, the cost is going to go up.
So whatever the reason that poorer Americans don't marry, I don't think concern about a $27,000 price tag is one of them. And whatever the reason, it is certainly a worrying trend, because marriage produces all kinds of familiar and social goods. Which is why we should encourage efforts to expand marriage to same-sex partners as well.

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