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Is marriage becoming the preserve of the affluent?

(161 Posts)
ChocolateWombat Tue 16-Jun-15 19:28:35

Having been a parent at a state school in a socially mixed area, and also a parent at an affluent independent school, I have noticed a real difference in whether parents are married or not.

In the independent school of almost 600 pupils, almost all of the parents are or seem to be/have been married - on the parents list, almost every mother is Mrs...
However, at the socially mixed school, probably 2/3 of the parents were unmarried. Those who were seemed to be the more middle class ones. It just got me thinking.

Now before this turns into a state school/independent school issue, I really don't want it to. My interest is in the role affluence plays in whether people marry or not - I can totally see that in state schools in affluent areas, similar numbers of parents are likely to be married.

Is marriage becoming the preserve of the affluent and something out of the ordinary for the less affluent? Is this the case and if so, why?

iloveport Tue 16-Jun-15 19:32:52

What about you are more likely to be able to afford private education if you are a couple than if you are not? rather than inherent affluence.

funnyossity Tue 16-Jun-15 19:35:31

I have read that the trend in the marriage stats bear this out.

TessDurbeyfield Tue 16-Jun-15 19:37:19

It does seem to be true that marriage is more prevalent amongst couples with higher incomes. Lots of research on this e.g. this it is long but look at the 'executive summary' on characteristics of those who marry or cohabit

BatteryPoweredHen Tue 16-Jun-15 19:37:51

I think the importance of marriage is quite a middle class value.

I was certainly taught by my parents to value myself highly enough not to settle for anything less than marriage before living together/having children.

It is quite a deep-rooted thing tbh, I'm heavily pg and feel really self conscious if I go out having forgotten to put my wedding ring on.

Seriouslyffs Tue 16-Jun-15 19:39:13

Yep it's correlation causation confusion!
Private school parents also tend to be older. It's more that people who spend their 20s working, then get married, then have children are more likely to have enough money to privately educate their children.

Kvetch15 Tue 16-Jun-15 19:44:26

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

JamesBlonde1 Tue 16-Jun-15 19:47:35

What I see on a day to day basis would seem to support this.

MatildaTheCat Tue 16-Jun-15 19:49:15

And people who have come from families where marriage is the norm are probably more likely to have the same values. Certainly true within my own family and friends.

ChocolateWombat Tue 16-Jun-15 19:49:28

Thanks for the link above to the IFS study.
It does seem to suggest that people who choose to marry are those who are more affluent.
If we went back 40 or 50 years, I suspect similar numbers in all classes married (or at least much closer numbers) so I wonder why there has been a decline in marriage amongst the less affluent. I guess there has been a decline amongst all groups, but moreso amongst the less affluent. Why is this?

JasperDamerel Tue 16-Jun-15 19:50:19

In my highly-educated, left-wing, vaguely artistic group of friends, a lot of couples aren't married, or get married in their forties or fifties after long and stable relationships, and it's hard to tell who is married because they are mostly called Ms/Dr Maidenname regardless of marital status.

GiddyOnZackHunt Tue 16-Jun-15 19:51:05

What about women who don't change their name on marriage?

123Jump Tue 16-Jun-15 19:52:00

I live in a very middle class/affluent area. My DC go to a private school. There are two divorced parents out of 240 children.
Both the mums are still single.

AliceAnneB Tue 16-Jun-15 19:54:26

I don't think it's just affluence but also education. I can't recall the study but I seem to remember the higher the education of the wife the less likely the couple were to divorce. Affluent couples tend to wait until later in life to marry and perhaps know themselves better. Building a good solid marriage isn't easy. I imagine the more educated you are the more prepared you are to build a solid relationship.

BatteryPoweredHen Tue 16-Jun-15 19:58:56

I also agree education is a factor; the more educated you are, the more likely you are to have realised how much better the outcomes for DCs are with married parents.

...also to have realised how vulnerable is the partner who gives up their career to raise the DCs (which is usually the woman) without the protection of marriage.

Ubik1 Tue 16-Jun-15 20:01:58

Most of my friends are not married but have been with the same partner fir around 20 years. We all have children.

None of us are from very affluent backgrounds and all the money we have gas gone on a house, a car and holiday/travels/student loans. We are all graduates.

I've noticed younger people in their 20s/30s seem to be more inclined to have a big white wedding - my younger sisters friends are all having huge weddings - but they are also working class, did not go to university and work hard to earn a decent living in trade/service sector in London.

I'm hoping we manage a small wedding in the next few years because with three kids and middle age fast approaching we want security.

knowledgeispower Tue 16-Jun-15 20:02:05

I'm from a working class background. My parents were married before they had children. I'm not married and have never felt the need to be married. Have never felt any stigma with regard to wedding rings etc. I have one dd who is about to go to grammar school after passing the super selective entrance exams.

When I was a little girl I dreamt of being a Dr. Hopefully that dream will become a reality soon as I start my MA next year grin

I live in an affluent area where the parents are quite young and about half are married. In my previous area (also affluent) further north the majority of parents were married but in their 40s.

SmallMustard Tue 16-Jun-15 20:02:28

No, but divorce certainly is - it costs a fortune.

usualsuspect333 Tue 16-Jun-15 20:04:47

I think MC people care more about what other people think. So they get married to keep up appearances,

Duckdeamon Tue 16-Jun-15 20:05:08

My friend reports that her private school call and list all the female parents Mrs and by the child's surname even if they're not married!

NoArmaniNoPunani Tue 16-Jun-15 20:10:03

how do you know? I'm married but I'm not a Mrs.

stonelog Tue 16-Jun-15 20:12:26

I would say it's more representative of how right-wing/conservative the sample is rather than how affluent.

Jasper has a good point...and I think the decline in marriage stats is more down to the rise of feminism & liberalism rather than a sudden decline in affluence/education. I worked for a left-wing organisation for several years, and plenty of the affluent, middle-middle class double-parent families who were our clients were either not married or didn't change their names upon marriage.

My Facebook news feed of a smaller but more socially representative sample backs this up grin my working-class, Northern friends vary wildly in their marital status, just as my middle-class, London friends do. It's the more conservative among both groups that are married by their 30s. A substantial number out of both (me likely included) will either not get married or not make a big deal out of it (no name changing etc., and will probably just do it for the tax break/party/in-laws).

Thenapoleonofcrime Tue 16-Jun-15 20:18:37

How do you know they are married from the roll-call of parents names? I have a completely different name than my husband and I also don't go by the title Mrs (but am married).

stonelog Tue 16-Jun-15 20:23:23

The parents had to give their titles, but I just assumed that anyone still using 'Miss' wasn't married. I thought they'd use 'Ms' if they were married but didn't want to be 'Mrs'.

Perhaps I'm about to be inundated by posters insisting that 'Miss' is very common among married women though grin

Athenaviolet Tue 16-Jun-15 20:25:29

I've noticed this.

Almost everyone I know who went to private school themselves got married at 30 before having DCs 2, 2 years apart grin.

With everyone else it does still often run along class lines. I notice it amongst my peers and at the different schools my DCs have been to.

The monetary reasons are pretty obvious.

1) traditional weddings are very expensive
2) inheritance tax
3) personal pensions
4) sahm right to live in a big house a high salary man pays for

Marriage doesn't have much to offer NINAs (no income, no assets)

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