That our society has been falling apart on marriage lines is incontrovertible – the hard evidence of this modern bifurcation is explored by Charles Murray in Coming Apart – but it is something to which our politicians pay little attention, despite its significant socio-economic, poverty and welfare implications.
Not so, however, the Marriage Foundation who have rolled their research of the last seven years into one paper and set of comprehensive data entitled Marriage as a Social Justice Issue.
Indeed it is. Would that our otherwise virtue-signalling politicos saw it that way.
The key section in it is ‘The Socially Unjust Marriage Gap’. While marriage remains the norm amongst the better off (and those who do marry are staying married more), it has become the exception amongst lower income groups.
Among mothers with children under five, 87 per cent of those in higher income groups are married compared with just 24 per cent of those in lower income groups (Benson & McKay 2015). Latest figures from ONS show that 76 per cent of new mothers in the top two social groups are married compared with 28 per cent in the bottom two groups (ONS 2019).
This ‘marriage gap’ applies right across Europe (Benson & James 2015a).
‘It makes no difference’ is often the hostile response I get when I raise this as an issue of concern. Why are you judging people? Well, this is not a matter of judgment, it is a matter of brutal fact that for children (and by corollary for society) marriage does matter. As the Marriage Foundation analysis details, it is best for:
Stability: parents who marry stay together. Cohabitees split with much greater frequency.
Teen mental health: this shows a very strong link with family breakdown. The UK has the highest level of family instability in the Western world across all socio-economic groups.
Responsible politicians really should stop ignoring this and start to heed it. You can read the Marriage Foundation paper here.