K J Smith Solicitors

Is marriage becoming just for the wealthy?

Published: 18 November 2014

Official figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that there is a growing marriage gap between the rich and the poor, which raises the question,  "is marriage becoming just for the wealthy?"

The Office for National Statistics divide the public into several different social categories, with the highest social class of 'higher managerial' including company directors, military personnel and teaching professionals  and the lowest social class of 'routine occupations' including cleaners, waiters and builders.

The statistics highlight that those from the 'higher managerial' bracket have gone from 24% more likely to be married (in 2001) to 50% more likely today. For those in the top social class bracket, 90% are married by the time they have children, compared to 45% of those on minimum wage or less.

Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Christian Guy said "Marriage has become a preserve of the better off. That means we have much less stability throughout the population. We have had a benefits system which says not just don't get married, but don't bother getting together. You are better off financially if you live apart. The cost of getting married is also putting people off having a wedding."

He also expressed his concern over the number of parents choosing to co-habit rather than getting married, which he believes has led to less social stability and puts those children at a disadvantage as they are "less able to flourish". Statistics do back up his claims, as less than 10% of married parents have separated by the time their child is 5 years old as opposed to 30% of unmarried parents separating by the time their child turns 5.

Back in the 1960s, 93% of children born were in wedlock, however recent times have seen a drastic change, with almost 50% of all children born in the UK to unmarried parents today.

This follows on from a government backed 'Effective Pre-school, Primate and Secondary Education project' study of 3,000 children from pre-school to the age of 16 which showed that children who were raised in a stable environment by married parents not only behaved better, but performed better at school then those who were raised by single or unmarried parents.

The big concern is that a marriage gap has started to appear which didn't exist a generation ago, creating social segregation between the classes. The signs are that marriage is now becoming something that only the wealthy do, despite its numerous advantages.

Prime Minister David Cameron is a public campaigner for marriage and had planned to introduce tax benefits to married couples. However Chancellor George Osborne refused to implement it until the last month of a five-year parliament and Nick Clegg is firmly opposed to the idea for fear of upsetting the public by making 'moral judgments' on potential voters. Unfortunately the issue of marriage has fallen fowl of cross-party politics, whilst creating a bigger divide between classes where families are concerned.

There are however some logical explanations that may skew the statistics in favour of the highest social class. There have been reports in the media that people are choosing to get married much later in life due to more financial security that comes with getting older - which also means that people are much further on in their chosen careers if they choose to get married later in their lives, which puts them then into the top 'higher managerial' social class. This would suggest that economic reasons play a bigger part in the decision to get married than just social status alone.

Whether you are married or cohabiting, if your relationship is on the verge of a breakdown then K J Smith Solicitors are here to help. Our experienced team of family law experts will work with you to 'see it from your side' and to help deliver the best possible outcome. For more information or to arrange a free 45 min consultation, contact us today on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).


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