Research has shown that divorce rates are rising and marriage rates are falling among low-income people in the U.S. But it seems that we have been making untrue assumptions about why this is so.
Dr. Thomas Trail and Dr. Benjamin Karney from the University of California - Los Angeles conducted a survey of 6,012 people. What they found proved most other research on the subject of marriage and divorce among low-income people wrong. "Over the past 15 years, efforts to tackle declining marriage rates and increasing divorce rates among low-income couples in the USA have been guided by assumptions about why there are fewer low-income marriages and why a higher percentage fail," said Trail. "The aim of our study was to separate the myth from the reality."
"We found that people with low incomes value marriage as an institution, have similar standards for choosing a marriage partner and experience similar problems with managing their relationships," concluded Trail. "We suggest that initiatives to strengthen marriage among the poor should also take social issues into account, as they can place a tremendous amount of stress on a marriage."
The study showed that while low-income and high-income respondents held similar romantic standards and experienced similar problems in their relationships, low-income respondents were more likely to report that their relationships were being affected by economic and social issues like financial struggles, alcohol and drug abuse.
"Prompted by the belief that the institution of marriage is in crisis among the poor, the federal government has spent $1 billion on initiatives to strengthen marriage among low-income populations," said Karney. "Often these are based on the assumption that there must be something wrong with how people on low incomes view marriage or that they just are not very good at managing intimate relationships."
Prior to Trail and Karney's study, the bulk of research had focused on specific low-income groups, like unmarried mothers and couples who had children but were not married. Theirs was the first study to use a comprehensive survey to compare attitudes and experiences of people from a variety of incomes and backgrounds.
Respondents were chosen at random from 4,508 Florida residents and smaller samples from California, Texas and New York. Sixty-six percent of respondents were female and 53 percent were married.
Read more of the study here: Why do Low-Income Couples Marry Less and Divorce More?
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