Wedding Finance

Get a raise, save your marriage: Study finds higher minimum wage can lower divorce rates

LOS ANGELES ( — More dollars will lead to fewer divorces, according to a new study. A collaboration between UCLA psychologists and RAND economists claims to have discovered an effective new way to reduce the number of divorces among low-income Americans: raise the minimum wage.

This is the first-ever project to examine the impact of increases in a state’s minimum wage on local marriage and divorce rates among low-income people.

“When policymakers think about ways to help disadvantaged families, there is a general tendency to try to teach them things like better communication or coping skills,” says Benjamin Karney, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at UCLA, in an academic statement. “The assumption that the consequences of income inequality can be managed in this way has been proven wrong time and time again.”

“Fortunately, there are other, more direct avenues to improve the lives of disadvantaged families, and one is to pursue policies that improve their lives in concrete ways.”

The federal government has dedicated nearly a billion dollars to help low-income families stay together in recent years, and the Republican subcommittee of the Senate Joint Economic Committee has just released a report expressing its commitment to combat this problem. Until now, most of these expensive efforts, which largely focused on teaching better relationship communication skills, have produced mediocre results at best.

Can $1 Save Your Marriage?

This latest work, however, found that when a state raises its minimum wage by just $1 an hour, divorce rates drop 7 to 15 percent over the next two years among low-income men and women. revenue.

Additionally, an increase in a state’s minimum wage of $1 also appears to promote a different effect—new marriage rates drop by three to six percent. Study co-author Thomas Bradbury, a UCLA psychology professor, explains that when low-income youth start earning more money, they tend to delay marriage instead of avoiding it entirely. .

“Increasing the minimum wage appears to bring the timing of marriage of lower-income people more in line with that of wealthier people, who tend to marry at older ages,” Prof Bradbury says, noting that such marriages are generally less likely to end in divorce.

What do lower divorce rates and later marriages have in common?

In the majority of cases, they strengthen the overall situation of low-income families. Additionally, these benefits manifest more consistently and more quickly than federal programs that focus on communication or adaptive skills.

“When the lives of poorer families become easier – that is, when they can be less poor – relationships within the family also become easier, without anyone needing to learn anything,” adds Professor Karney. “Any policy that tackles income inequality is likely to have measurable benefits for family stability.”

The researchers analyzed two sets of data collected between 2004 and 2015 for this project. The first was provided by the Current population survey, a primarily telephone survey of approximately 60,000 households in various populated areas. The other data set came via the American Community Survey, a mostly mail-based survey of approximately 300,000 households. Only people between the ages of 18 and 35 participated in this research, as these age groups make up the majority of low-income people.

The authors of the study were keen to mention that between 2002 and 2015, seven US states never raised their minimum wages unless the federal government required it. These states were Wyoming, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

“Financial considerations play an important role in whether couples consider their relationships worth maintaining,” Professor Karney concludes. “Economic stress and financial strain predict less satisfying and less stable marriages, and higher levels of poverty and consumer debt predict greater risk of divorce.”

For this work, the study authors considered anyone earning $20 an hour or less to be a low-income worker. They point out, however, that the results would have been substantially the same even if they had lowered this threshold to $16 per hour.

The study is published in the Marriage and Family Diary.