Marrying up and down

The IPPR seem to have managed to actually note something of interest. Only a decade behind everyone else but still, good to see lefties catching up:

However Nick Pearce, the IPPR’s director, voiced concern at the implications of the study.

\”This shift has implications for inequality, as well-educated, higher earners marry each other and then pass on the fruits of their combined success to their children,” he said.

\”While governments have no business telling people who to marry, and have plenty of bigger economic inequalities to aim at, it is important for policy-makers to understand these trends if they are to have a full understanding of what\’s driving the stagnation in social mobility.\”

Of course, we need to go further than this: assortative (or associative, your choice) mating has indeed rather changed the face of inequality in the UK.

The move of women into the workforce, the delay of marriage (and primagravidae) until 30 ish, has meant that partners are generally chosen from those one works with. Or at least those one meets in the social activities surrounding work.

Thus we\’ve a great increase in professionals marrying professionals, white collar white collar, blue collar blue collar and so on. The social classes may well have sorted themselves this way before: but those in work did not in quite the same way.

Thus we\’ve got the rise of the two professional income household: this is rather different from what we had before. I\’ve not seen the numbers for the UK but in the US it\’s really quite stark. When you look at the distribution of household incomes the top 10% and 20% (ignoring the very few who are making millions upon millions) are dominated by those two professional households. The bottom 10% by those where there\’s no one in work. Then two manual worker households and so on.

This obviously has effects on the inequality of household incomes. And there\’s really not much that anyone can do about it either. We\’re certainly not going to go back to the days when it was the income of the household rather than the individual that was taxed. That would be to make women mere economic appendages again.

Think of it this way. We\’ve some household in the Midlands, Dave works full time in metal bashing, making £25k a year, median wages (ish). Poll does a bit of part time work for a further £8k a year. This is true now and was true 50 years ago (yes, working class women have been part of the labour market for most of the time, they\’ve had to be).

We\’ve also got David who is senior in journalism, on one of the great national newspapers, on £100k plus, perhaps moves into PR on similar sorts of numbers. His Polly was a typist on the newspaper where they met and she\’s carried on doing a bit of that here and there for £10-£15k a year (London numbers for part time).

Or today\’s numbers, David\’s the same but Polly is also one that £100k as she\’s also a senior journalist on that great national newspaper.

We\’ve moved the gap between household incomes from £33k to £100k to £33k to £200, £250k. Household income inequality has grown without wage income disparity having grown at all.

And there\’s really not much that anyone can do about it.

7 comments on “Marrying up and down

  1. “Thus we’ve a great increase in professionals marrying professionals, white collar white collar, blue collar blue collar and so on. The social classes may well have sorted themselves this way before: but those in work did not in quite the same way.”

    Class is Britain is complex and you have to be careful what you say. We have not had an increase of white collar marrying white collar and blue collar marry blue collar. They always did. It is just that the sons of generals used to work but they married daughters of bishops who did not. Sons of doctors who worked married daughters of Barristers who did not. And so on. Now lawyers marry other lawyers. Social inequality has not risen. The measurable outcome of household income has.

    If anything cross-class marriages are more common as barristers now divorce their blue stocking wives and marry much younger typists.

  2. “Thus we’ve got the rise of the two professional income household”.

    Does this not need re=phrasing ?

    Thus we’ve got the rise of the two professional wage-slave households – but by the time tax and expenses are taken into account, ONE income ?

    By expenses I mean public or private transport, which is not tax-deductible, profession-needed clothing, NI.

    Gone are the days when one man working was enough to keep both the couple and offspring, taxes were not a major factor in their calculations.

    Alan Douglas

  3. “We’re certainly not going to go back to the days when it was the income of the household rather than the individual that was taxed. That would be to make women mere economic appendages again.”

    You frequently assert this point, but I’d be interested to read a discussion on it.

    My family’s income is taxed by household, and I don’t believe it has made my wife a mere economic appendage. Even though my higher rate income causes her to also be taxed at a higher rate, she recognizes the benefits of my income and of her own.

  4. I always suspected that journo’s were grossly overpaid. Thank you for proving it

  5. a slightly lateral point, but I wonder if the rise of rewards for “numerate degrees from Oxbridge” has led to more numerate degree holders marrying one another and producing children at the more ‘autistic’ end of the spectrum via genetics? Before shooting me down, think of what previous examples of ‘in-breeding’ have produced in other self reinforcing social circles. Certainly, annecdotally and living in london I would say that almost all of the ‘difficult’ children I encounter have two mathematically inclined parents. That they are a) also almost always American and b) their parents are always in denial as to the Child’s “issues” may of course point to other causalities…..

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