I’ve often claimed that relative income- the ratio of potential earnings for women to the potential earnings for men in their potential marriage pool– is a kind of Unified Field Theory for where and why marriage rates are declining. Not only do they explain why wealthier households tend to have maintained higher marriage rates even as poorer households’ rates have declined, they also are suggestive of why means-tested welfare benefits tend to have outsized disincentive effects on marriage and why black marriage rates fell so extraordinarily quickly in the late 20th century.
While I still think this hypothesis has a lot of explanatory power, it’s worth noting that over the last few years, marriage rates have continued to decline…
even as incomes of men relative to average wages of women have rebounded (for blacks) and plateaued (for whites) since their low point during the last recession:
Putting these two graphs together on a single set of axes is interesting, because it suggests that while there seems to be a kind of enduring relationship between relative incomes and young people’s marriage rates, recent declines are distinctive:
Is this really because of Tinderpocalypse, or porn, or a second sexual revolution, or the alleged ability of desirable men to avoid commitment because another girl is always a swipe away?
Whatever it is, it seems distinctive and troubling that the marriage rate has generally been dropping more quickly even as the economy has recovered.