Forget flashy engagement rings and a $200-a-head reception.
Is the marriage itself actually now a status symbol in America?
According to a new study, “Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape,” presented at the American Sociological Association, there’s now a noticeable class divide when it comes to marriage—and money worries are likely to blame.
Tying the knot used to be an equal-opportunity piece of the American dream. But in the overall decline of marriage rates in the U.S., nuptials among the working class have taken the biggest hit—declining 36 percentage points since 1960, compared to just 11 points among the upper middle class.
Today, the marriage rate in America is at a historic low—it fell 66% percent overall between 1950 and 2011.
The study’s researchers interviewed about 300 Americans, both working class and middle class, to discover why this gap between the groups is growing.
Their findings suggest that instead of a major moral or cultural shift (like growing acceptance of unmarried couples living together), it might be a general lack of job security that is the big dissuader. Today, there are fewer stable, well-paying jobs for those without a college degree than in the past—take manufacturing or union jobs, for an example.
And while couples in the middle class are now more likely to have disposable income to spend on relationship boosters like date nights, vacations or therapy sessions, the working class often don’t have that option.
Add that to just the daily stress of making ends meet on the essentials, and it’s easy to see how finances can be a heavy deterrent to matrimonial bliss.
“With insecure work … little stability and no ability to plan for a foreseeable future,” those in the working class are often “unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others,” Professor Sarah Corse, the lead researcher, told The Telegraph. “Marriage is becoming a distinctive social institution marking middle-class status.”