A new blogpost on the Brookings website in the US explores why children raised by married parents typically do better in life on almost every available economic and social measure. Is it an effect of marriage itself, or is it simply because married parents have, on average, higher family incomes?
The authors argue that there is a growing marriage gap along class lines in
the US, with fewer poorer couples choosing to marry while the institution
flourishes among the affluent and well-educated. They also say that married
parents tend to have, on average, higher family incomes anyway.
The researchers used benchmarks developed as part ofthe Brookings
Social Genome Model to explore patterns in attainment, cognitive and
non-cognitive skills, higher education, and later earnings.
Children who grow up with continuously married mothers rank on average 14
percentiles higher as adults on the income distribution than those who do not.
Controlling for family income throughout childhood shrinks this gap from 14
percentiles to 9 percentiles. And accounting for other factors – parenting
behaviour, maternal education, race, and maternal age – shrinks it further to
around a 4.5 percentile difference.
Similarly, parenting behaviour appears to help explain the different
outcomes. After controlling for parenting, the gap between children of
continuously married mothers and others shrinks from 14 percentiles to 7.5
The analysis suggests that both the higher incomes and the more engaged
parenting of married parents count for a good deal, and, if anything, parenting
may matter a little more.
Source: The Marriage Effect: Money or Parenting? (2014),