In class today we discuss education and marriage. While we see a general trend toward fewer and later marriages there are substantial differences across education. More educated men and women are marrying more than less educated men and women. They are also divorcing less. So highly educated people who are well-paid are combining their incomes and securing the benefits that come from marriage. Meanwhile less educated individuals are either not forming relationships (single parents) or forming relationships and living arrangements that are less durable (e.g. cohabitation). So on average there is either a low single income or two low but combined incomes. This is a topic that has been discussed substantially in news outlets. For example, here are articles from The Atlantic, Forbes, and Freakonomics.
You can imagine this has lead to substantial income inequality. For example, this study from a few years ago in the NBER reports that, “Data from the United States Census Bureau suggests there has been a rise in assortative mating….[I]f matching in 2005 between husbands and wives had been random, instead of the pattern observed in the data, then the Gini coefficient would have fallen from the observed 0.43 to 0.34, so that income inequality would be smaller.”
That assortative mating refers to people sorting into relationships with people like them. In this case, people with high education marrying people with high education. But, even for its coverage in the media, we probably do not discuss enough how rising income inequality is driven by patterns in marriage and divorce among those with high and low education.
Have you considered the strong negative impact of no fault divorce laws on sorting? Judges award substantial transfers from the higher income individual to the lower income individual.
If you are a high income earner (male) and marry a low income earner (female) and the low income female initiates the divorce, the high income male will be obligated to a multi decade payout if you have young children.
Marrying someone with a similar income protects you from the downside of divorce.