NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Married, Intact Families Yield Higher Incomes

October 30, 2014

In a new report for the American Enterprise Institute, W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman look at the link between today's economy and family structure.

America's family structure -- and corresponding economic situation -- has changed since 1950. From 1950 to 1979, families saw an 80 percent increase in income and almost 90 percent of working-age men were employed. Since that time, things have changed, with family incomes stagnating and male employment falling. At the same time, the marriage rate has fallen.

Wilcox and Lerman describe the link between marriage and incomes:

  • The drop in the marriage rate is having a significant impact on incomes. If the United States had a married parenthood rate at the same level that it had in 1980, the median income of families with children would increase by 44 percent.
  • Since 1979, 37 percent of the decline in the male employment rate is due to the drop in the number of intact families.
  • Children who grow up with both parents in the home tend to be higher educated and have higher incomes. Both men and women earn an income premium of $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, simply for growing up in an intact household.
  • Married men have an income "marriage premium" of $15,900 annually, compared to their single counterparts, making family incomes higher.
  • Married couples who themselves were raised by intact families have a family income premium of $42,000 compared to their unmarried counterparts raised in non-intact families.

The researchers hope that policymakers will recognize the vital role that family and marriage play in economic security. They encourage government policies that strengthen marriage, remove penalties on marriage and improve economic opportunities for families, including by expanding the earned income tax credit and expanding vocational programs that improve job prospects for young adults.

Source: W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman, "For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America," American Enterprise Institute, October 28, 2014.


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