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Does_Marriage_Increase

Does_Marriage_Increase - THOMAS A thsan JOYCE ALTOBELLI...

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Unformatted text preview: THOMAS A. thsan JOYCE ALTOBELLI MARK R. RANK Cornell University C ameti Uni versitv“ Washington Univenrintw Does Marriage Increase the Odds of Affiuence? Exploring the Life Course Probabilities This study estimates the an» course incidence-and age pattern of affluence among American couples in comparison to nanmarried. never married. and firrmeriv married men and women. Life course probabilities are computed from a series of life tables built upon 25 years of data from the Panel Saniv of income Dvnamics {N = 8.5“) 25-year aids; N = 3.48! 45—‘t‘earmlrlsl. Results cmtfirm the notion that marriage enhances the lifetime probability of afilnence. and that this advantage varies sharply by gender and by race. The study suggests that the marital advantage for gaining afiinence is textured h_v a financial landscape of gender and race inequality It is widely believed that marriage increases the likelihood of becoming affluent. especially when the marriage lasts a long time. This belief is a part of American cultural lore, first articulated by Benjamin Franklin. and continuing to the present Department of Development Sociology. Cornell University. Ithaca. NY I485] [email protected]‘cornell.edtti. *Department of Development Sociology. Cornell Univer- sity. Ithaca. NY I485}. “School of Social Work. Washington University. St. Lou. is. MO (13130. Key Words: aflthrenr'e. fitmily structure. gender inequality. life mane. marriage. tWaite & Gallagher. 2000). Social scientists and economists generally concur with this notion. at least in the sense that among all possible house- hold types. marriage is viewed as the most sal- utary for achieving financial success. Further- more, because the attainment of financial wealth is highly valued within American culture (de Tocqueville, 1999; Hacker. l997'; Weber. i998). the. positive case for marriage- is all the more compelling. The association of marriage with affluence is related to the broader ideology commonly identi- fied as the American Dream t'l-lochschild. 1995). Most Americans. and particularly White Anteri- cans. believe that opportunities exist for all to rise up from modest beginnings. Marriage is thought to be instrumental to upward income mobility. whereas staying married is regarded as a positive moral quality (Waite & Gallagher, 2000). invest- ing in a long-term. stable marriage is therefore a vehicle for pursuing moral as well as financial re- turns. There is a fairly large body of evidence sug- gesting that the American Dream does not pan out equally or fairly for all in society (Lichter 8r. Lans- dale. 1995; Schwarz. 1997). For example. Rank and Hirschl (200M) assessed the likelihood of al- fluence within the American population over the period of 1968—1992 and concluded that Blacks are much less likely than Whites to become afflu— Journal of Marriage and Familyr 65 {November 2003): 927—938 927 928 eat. and that the very substantial racial disadvan- tage cannot be explained by gender composition or educational attainment. This finding, among others. suggests that claims associated with the American Dream should be subjected to empirical assessment. rather than uncritically accepted. How many couples actually achieve affluence? We are aware of no longitudinal studies assessing the probability of affluence among American cou- ples. In this paper we attempt to do so and in the process answar the following questions. First. what is the incidence of affluence among couples over the life course. and how does that compare with individuals who are not married? Funher— more, how does the incidence of affluence among marrieds and nonmarrieds differ depending on the stage of the life course? Are older married and nonman‘ied individuals more likely to achieve af- fluence compared with their younger counter- parts? Second. to what extent does the putative mar- riage advantage vary by race and by the presence of children? Race is a major divide within the stratification system. and children increase the need for family income as well as the need for unpaid household labor. We expect that the like- lihood of affluence is conditional upon these two variables. Third. is marriage a more attractive option for achieving affluence depending upon one's gender? To examine this question, we estimate the rates of affluence for nonmarried men and women and compare them to their married counterparts. This comparison provides an empirical assessment of the proposition that it is in men‘s and women‘s pecuniary interest to get married and to stay mar- r-ied. Finally. we examine life course rates of afflu- ence among disaggregated categories of nonmar— ried individuals and compare these to marrieds. The disaggregation is inspired by Jessie Bernard‘s theory that marriage constitutes. a hierarchical gender bond where higher status men marry down to lower status women (Bernard. 1973). Bernard predicts that upwardly mobile. high income. and thus cream of the crop women have less incentive to marry. and are furthennorc less attractive to men who may feel threatened. if this notion has empirical validity. then never married women should have an income advantage over formerly married women who are not cream of the crop. We operationalize this advantage in toms of a gender difference in the likelihood of affluence over the life course. A further element of Ber- Journal of Marriage and Family nard's theory is that low status. low income men are bottom of the barrel in the marriage market because they are undesirable economically and because they have few women below their status from whom to choose. We see no straightforward way to translate this proposition into the likeli- hood of affluence for. never married versus for— merly married men who may also be bottom of the barrel. CURRENT KNOWLEDGE 0N AFFLUENCE AND THE Economics or Manama}; Ini‘omiation regarding the extent and nature of af- fluence is scarce. As Massey notes. "Our obses— sive interest in the generation and reproduction of class is rarely focused on the affluent" ([996. p. 409). Studies focused on the affluent have oper- ationalized affluence in several ways—as a mu]- tiplier (such as 7 or 9 times] of the poverty line (Danziger .8: Gottschallt, 1995: Danziger. Gott— schalk. & Smolensky. 1989: Farley. 1996): as a set dollar amount such as $100.le (US. Bureau of the Census. 2000b): or as a fixed percentage of the highest earners in society such as the top 5%. 10%. or 20% (Levy. 199.8: Ryscavage- 1999'. US. Bureau of the Census). All of these approaches suggest that during the past three decades the percentage of the popula- tion qualifying as affluent (and their actual income garnered} has increased. For example. using the Current Population Survey. Danai'ger' and Gott- schalk [1995) defined affluence as 7 times the poverty line. They found that 11.7% of Americans were affluent in 1991 compared with 4.4% in l969. Similarly, in l967. 3.2% of American households earned more than $100,000 [in [999 dollml, whereas in 1999 the percentage had risen to 12.3% (US. Bureau of the Census. 2000b). Comparative analyses using the Luxembourg income Study have indicated that Americans fall- ing into the top 10% of the income distribution enjoy standards of living Well beyond those of other developed nations iGottschalk 3: Smeeding. 1997). For example. Smeeding (1997) reports that the real income of Americans in the top 10% was 42% more than the average incomes of the other 15 nations studied. Likewise. affluent American children enjoy standards of living well beyond their counterparts in other Western industrialized nations (Rainwater & Smeeding. 1995). With regard to the longitudinal dynamics of af- fluence. We are aware of only two studies that have addressed the issue tHirschl. Altobelli. & Marriage and Afflrtenre Rank. 2001‘. Rank 8.: Hirschi. 200M). Rank 8:. Hirschl relied upon life table techniques to ana- lyze individuals in the Panel Study of Income Dy- namics (PSlD) over the adult life course. resulting in 50.1% of Americans achieving affluence (de— fined as [0 times the federal poverty cutoff) be- tween the ages of 25 and 75. In addition. affluence was highly age dependent. with rates quite low between ages 25 and 40. elevating between ages 40 and 60. and then settling back down in the miduoos and 70s. Finally. affluence was highly stratified by race and education, For example. the adult lifetime incidence of affluence for a White man with at least a high school degree was 65.9%. versus 5.8% for a Black man with less than 12 years of education. In the Hirsch] et al. (200] ) paper. two different types of life tables were used to analyze the like- lihood of affluence among couples, again relying upon the PSID. The first type was based on length of marriage and deployed three different defini— tions of affluence: 3. l0, and l2 times the federal poverty level. At 25 years of marriage. the cu- mulative percentage of couples achieving l or more years of affluence ranged from 43% for the lower threshold (8 times the poverty rate) to 27% for the middle threshold (In times the poverty rate). to l9% for the highest threshold (l2 times the poverty rate). The second type of life table was based upon age of family head. and estima- tions were produced. for three separate age groups: (a) couples married at age 20. followed to age 40; ('bl couples married at age 40. followed to age fill: and (c) couples married at age (it). followed to age ”Ill. Less than 3% of couples in the first age group (affluence defined as [0 times the poverty rate) achieved affluence by age 40. versus 40% in the 40- to 60-year~old group. For the older group. 23% had experienced one or more years of afflu- ence by age 70. Although there is apparently no additional lon- gitudinal research on affluence among couples. there is strung cross-sectional evidence that mar- riedwcouple families are financially better off in comparison with all other household types (While & Rogers. 2000). In l999. median income for married-couple families was $56.83? compared with $26.]64 for families with a female house- holder (no husband present). $4l.833 for male householder families (no wife presentt. and $24,566 for all other nonfumt'ly households (US. Bureau of the Census. 20003). There is also evidence that married couples‘ point—in-time advantage cumulates in the form of 929 family wealth. at least among families with chil- dren. In a study using the National Survey of Families and Households. Hao (1996. p. 272) found “that marriage may be a wealth-enhancing institution . . . [and] single mothers. except for widows. have the least wealth among all family types." Hao‘s study suggests that married couples” cross-sectional income advantage is paralleled by an advantage in wealth accumulation. There are several possible explanations for the superior financial status of married couple fam- ilies. By definition. a married couple family has more than one adult wage Earner to send into- the labor market. thus enhancing the earnings op- tions (McNeil. 1998). Second. when a household includes two adults. there is the possibility for a division of labor that maximizes family income (Waite & Gallagher. 2000]. Such a divisiOn would enable the partner with higher earnings to devote relati'Vely more energy and attention to remunerated work. Under existing conditions. this strategy on the part of married couples could exacerbate existing sex discrimination in the la— bor market. Male earnings are. on average. high- er than female earnings. and there is consistent evidence that married men earn more than un- married men (Bartlett & Callahan, 1984‘, Gray. l997‘. Schoeni I995). Third. marital household expenses are less per person than are expenses for singles living alone. It is generally observed that two can live more cheaply than one. Fourth. there is evidence that marriage selects the more st'icioeconomically advantaged (Fossett & Kie~ colt. l993; South. 199l l and healthy (Fu & Gold— man. I996) individuals from the general popu- lation. From this point of view. marriage is the more affluent household type because it is com— prised of individuals who are more likely to be- come affluent. In summary, on the one hand. the research lit- erature leads us to anticipate that. to the extent affluence is achieved by any household type in American society. it should be most coutmonly achieved by .mam‘ed couples. If. on the other hand. households headed by nonmarried persons exhibit a higher likelihood of affluence. then this casts doubt upon conventional wisdom that get— ting married and staying married results in finan- cial success. We anticipate that nonmarital afflu- ence is more common among men versus women given the past and current gender inequities in la— bor market earnings. 930 METHOD Data Set The PSID is a nationally representative. longitu- dinal sample of households and families inter— viewed annually since 1968 (Hill. 1992). ll con- stitutes the longest waning panel data set in the United States. The PSID was specifically designed to track income dynamics over lime and is there- fore ideally suited for the purpose at hand. The PSID initially interviewed approximately 4.800 U.S. households in' 1968. which included detailed information on roughly 18.000 individu- als within those households. The PSID has since tracked these individuals annually. including those children and adults who eventually broke off front their original households to form new households (e.g.. children leaving home. separations. divorce). Thus the PSID is designed so that in any given year the sample is representative of the US. pop- elation. Throughout the analysis we employ sampling weights to ensure that the PSID sample will ac- curately reflect the [3.5. population. Specifically. we utilize the weights assigned to individuals for each given wave to take advantage of the PSID practice of adjusting weights annually to amount for nonresponse bias. We utilize both the household and individual levels of information from the initial wave of 1968 through 1992. Consequently. we draw upon 25 years of longitudinal information. which trans- lates into several hundred thousand individual years of information embedded in the analysis. Life- Tubt‘c Approach Our analytical strategy is to use the household in- come and demographic infonnation on individuals throughout this 25-year period. to construct life ta- bles that estimate the likelihood of affluence across the working age portion of the adult life— 5pan. The life table examines the extent to which specific events occur across intervals of time (Namboodiri dc Suchindran, 1987). In this analy- sis. our time intervals are single years. During that year. one can calculate the probability of an event occurring (in. this case. affluence) for those who have yet to experience the event. Once affluence has occurred. the individual is no longer at risk and therefore exits the life table. Based upon these year—specific probabilities. the cumulative proba— bilities of an event occurring amass the life course Journal of Marriage and Fertility can be calculated. These cumulative probabilities form the core of our analysis (for a more detailed description of this approach. see Rank & Hirschl. 2(l0lb). A major analytical issue concerns change and stability across the categories of married and non— married. Evidence from the PSID and other lon- gitudinal studies demonstrate that marital disrup- tion is quite common due to high rates of divorce and remarriage (Richards. White, & Tsui. 1987). Nevertheless. over the life course marriage re- mains lhe most common household living ar- rangement among adults. Using age-specific mar- riage rates for I980 (the midpoint of our time frame of 1968 to 1992). Sweet and Bumpass (1986) estimate that men will spend 28 years in marriage between the ages of 20 and 59. and that women will spend 27 years in marriage. So de— spite the fact that divorce is common. adults spend roughly 70% of their preretirement years in mar— riage. Our approach is to model the state of maniage. rather than the length of marriage. There are sev- eral reasons for this decision: first and foremost. the dependent variable—current year affluence— is an event that does not directly result from a cumulative process. Affluence is defined by cur- rent year income that is the sum of earnings of all household members. regardless of their prior year marital and household status. This situation rec— ommends a discrete time approach where income is adjusted for family status for each year of mea- suremen'l [AllisOn. 1984). Second. our earlier em- pirical work suggests that length of marriage is. in fact. a less important empirical predictor of af- fluence than is age of the couple [Hirsch] et al.. 200”. Couples in their 40s and 505 are much more likely to experience affluence than are cou- ples in their Ellis and 305. regardless of how long they have been married. Our discrete time methodology is operational- ized using a multivariate logistic regression life table (Guilkey & Rindfuss, 1987). This approach inputs life table probabilities into a legit estima- tion. and then the vector of lngit coefficients are utilized to decompose life table probabilities- with— in each unit of time. For example. individuals who move from married to nonmarried over the period of Time 1 to Time 2 will be in the model as mar; tied at Time I and nonmarried at Time 2. with their odds of affluence interpreted. as such. This discrete time model has the capability to track the adult population as it moves in and out of mar— riage over the life course. M arriage and Afiluerlt‘e The life tables used in this study are based on the age of the individual. with all individuals be- ginning at the same age. The life table follows individuals to a particular cndprn'rrt age. or until they attrite from the sample. die. or experience affluence. the event of interest. The analysis thus measures the likelihood of achieving affluence within an age range. At any given age. the cate- gory married is composed of recently married; longer term man‘ied; and individuals in their sec- ond, third. and higher marriages. Nonmatried in— cludes divorced. widowed. and never man-led. Our approach models the states of marital and nonmarital status as functions of an individual‘s age. When we separate the never married from the formerly married composed of widmvs. widowers, and divorced. it pushes the limits of our sample size. and we are able to model these states at younger ages where there are sufficient numbers of never tuam'eds. but not at older ages where there is an insufficient sample size of never mar— rieds. The life table. analysis proceeds through five levels of empirical detail. We first estimate a life table that compares manieds to nonman‘ieds. This provides an overall measure of the marriage efl’ecr on the life course odds of affluence. Second. we estimate repeat affluence among marrieds and nonmarrieds by estimating life tables for those who experience 2 or more years of affluence. 3. 4. and 5 or more years within the older and youn- ger age ranges. Third. we estimate life tables by presence of children and by race. Fourth, we es« Iimate a life table for marrieds. as well as for non— utarried men and women. This introduces gender into the analysis. assesses the degree to which women versus men benefit from marriage. and the degree to which they are successful at achieving affluence outside of marriage. Finally, we esti mate a life table that breaks marital status into married. never married. and formerly married in order to address Bernard's H973) hypothesis. Measurement Our measure of affluence is analogous to how the poverty line is delineated. except that it is drawn on the other side of the income distribution curve. Individuals residing in households earning in- comes thnt are 1'0 or more times the poverty level for that size household are considered affluent. For example. to cal...
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