Poor people value marriage as much as the middle class and rich

UCLA 16 July 2012
Poor people hold more traditional values toward marriage and divorce than people with moderate and higher incomes, UCLA psychologists report in the current issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The findings are based on a large survey about marriage, relationships and values, analyzed across income groups. They raise questions about how effectively some $1billion in government spending to promote the value of marriage among the poor is being spent.

“A lot of government policy is based on the assumption that low-income people hold less traditional views about marriage,” said Benjamin Karney, a UCLA professor of psychology and senior author of the study. “However, the different income groups do not hold dramatically different views about marriage and divorce — and when the views are different, they are different in the opposite direction from what is commonly assumed. People of low income hold values that are at least as traditional toward marriage and divorce, if not more so.”

…Low-income people hold much more traditional attitudes about divorce and are less likely to see divorce as a reasonable solution to an unhappy marriage, Karney said. One area where low-income groups are less traditional, he said, is on the acceptability of single parenting. These findings raise an obvious question: If poor people hold traditional values about marriage and divorce, why are their marriage rates lower and their out-of-wedlock births much higher than those of higher incomes? The answer, Karney said, is that values often do not predict behavior, and they don’t in these areas.

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