Tuesday, May 05, 2015

old stinky-fingered arkansas possum to blame for divorce rates among america's poor


WaPo |  The first question people ask me when they learn that my husband lost his job, our house went underwater and we went from middle class to barely working poor during the 2008 economic crash is: How did you stay together?

It always struck me as a strange question. But it’s actually a reasonable one. Overall, America’s divorce rate has fallen. But like many things, the poor have not reaped the benefits of this trend. The number of married, college-educated couples splitting by their seventh anniversary has dropped from more than 20 percent in the early 1980s to just 11 percent today. But among the poor, those numbers are stagnant. According to the New York Times, 17 percent of lower-income couples (pairs making no more than twice the federal poverty line of just over $30,000) get divorced, about the same rate as it was in the 1980s.

Why this discrepancy?
To start, money is a major source of tension for all couples (they fight more about it than about anything else, including sex and child care). And less money can equal more problems. Raevan Zayas stays at home with her 1-year-old baby in California while her husband struggles at a low-paying job. 

“I can’t afford child care to go to work. We can barely afford groceries. Our kid needs new shoes and clothes, and I can’t remember the last time Isaac and I did something nice together,” she said. “Our relationship is so strained. How are you supposed to work through the problems in your relationship when you’re worried about how you’re going to buy milk for your kid?”

University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers said he’s also found that working-class families have more stringent views about men as providers. The economy has shifted so that those without college degrees have more trouble finding such work, which contributes not only to financial hardship but also to relationship stress. As Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherbin explains: “I’ve looked at the marriage gap between men with high- and low-earning occupations, and it varies directly with the amount of economic inequality in the country. The more unequal the earning opportunities, the greater the marriage gaps between the classes.”