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Poorer men twice as likely to be divorced

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Written by: Paloma Kubiak
11/08/2017
Men brought up in low-income households are twice as likely to be divorced as those from wealthier backgrounds, a study reveals.

It’s well known that sons of richer parents tend to have higher earnings, but a study has found that the gap is widening as men from wealthier backgrounds earn 88% more than their poorer colleagues.

In 2012, employed 42-year-old men whose parents were among the richest fifth of households earned on average 88% more than those from the poorest families. In 2000, the equivalent gap for men of the same age was 47%, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

But it also found that those from wealthier backgrounds are more likely to have a partner who comes from a more advantaged upbringing too. As such, the IFS said the partners of men from richer backgrounds earn 73% more than the partners of men from poorer families.

In contrast, men from poorer backgrounds not only have lower earnings, but they’re also twice as likely to be single.

In 2012, more than one-in-three men from disadvantaged backgrounds lived alone in their early 40s, compared with one-in-seven men from rich backgrounds living without a partner.

This is due to lower rates of marriage and higher rates of relationship breakdown among men from low-income families. Men from low-income households were more than twice as likely to be divorced as those from high-income backgrounds (11% rather than 5%) and almost twice as likely never to have been married (36% rather than 20%).

There’s more bad news for men from poorer backgrounds: the ‘Intergenerational income persistence within families’ paper revealed they’re also twice as likely to be out of work as their richer counterparts. Only 7% of men growing up in the richest fifth of households were out of work at age 42 in 2012, while more than 15% of men from the poorest fifth of households were out of work.

Chris Belfield, a research economist at IFS and an author of the paper, said: “Focusing solely on the earnings of men in work understates the importance of family background in determining living standards. As well as having higher earnings, those from richer families are more likely to be in work, more likely to have a partner and more likely to have a higher-earning partner than those from less well-off backgrounds. And all these inequalities have been widening over time.”

Alison Park, director of CLOSER which funded the research, said: “It shows how existing differences in the earnings of men from richer and poorer backgrounds are exacerbated by a new divide, with poorer men in their early 40s being less likely than those from wealthier backgrounds to be living with a partner.”

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