Connecting Thrift and Marriage:
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The academic literature on family structure and economic wellbeing is voluminous. While much of it focuses narrowly on the topics of income and poverty, there are, in my view, enough solid studies on family structure, saving, and wealth to make a clear case that marriage and thrift are interconnected.
What the studies show won't surprise those familiar with family structure research in general: Married couples save more and have far more wealth than their unmarried peers on average. What is somewhat surprising is the magnitude of this "marriage premium" in thrift: It often dwarfs the marriage premium in income. In other words, married couples tend to save substantially more than others even after their greater income is taken into account. This differential is in part explained by the fact that more "prudent" individuals are more likely to marry in the first place (selection effects). But it also stems from the fact that marriage is a "special" arrangement — characterized by certain norms and expectations — that creates its own goods. Not surprisingly, divorce has an effect opposite that of marriage. It has a uniquely negative impact on economic wellbeing. When children are in the picture, all of these effects are greater.
Thus, while we as a society have increasingly come to view marriage and divorce as the beginning and ending of a personal relationship rooted in companionship, the scholarly research makes it clear that these decisions still have profound economic consequences.
In the pages that follow, I will highlight what I found to be the best studies and most salient points in the academic literature.