Men from poor families twice as likely to be single, IFS study finds

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One in three men from disadvantaged backgrounds are single at age of 42, compared with one in seven from rich families

Middle-aged men from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to be single as those from rich families, according to a new study that highlights the lack of social mobility in Britain.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that men’s marriage prospects are linked to their upbringing, and that the disparity between those from well-off and poor families has widened in recent years.

The study found that one in three men from disadvantaged backgrounds were single at the age of 42, compared with one in seven from rich backgrounds living without a partner. This disparity has strengthened the link between the incomes of families across generations, thus reducing social mobility.

It is well known that the sons of richer parents tend to go on to have higher earnings. However, new research published today shows that they also benefit from being more likely to have a partner, and from that partner being more likely to have higher earnings. Even among men in couples, the partners of men from richer backgrounds earn 73% more than the partners of men from poorer families.

Female earnings are an increasingly important component of household income and so these trends significantly reduce the household incomes of men who grew up in poor families compared with those of men who grew up in rich families. And this is a new phenomenon. Amongst men born 12 years earlier, the differences in partnership status and partner earnings by family background were considerably smaller. This change in household composition has strengthened the link between the incomes of parents and children and hence reduced social mobility.

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