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Single Parenthood Helps Explain Boost in US Income Inequality, Researchers Say

Posted Jul 20, 2012 5:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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All those mothers of yesteryear were right. There is an advantage to getting married.

Researchers say the rise in single parenthood explains 15 percent to 40 percent of the growth in income inequality in the United States, the New York Times reports in a blog post and article. And more of the out-of-wedlock births are occurring among women who didn’t graduate from college.

Less than 10 percent of the births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while the figure is nearly 60 percent for women who have only high school degrees or fewer years in school. Less-educated women, the Times says, “are growing less likely to marry at all, raising children on pinched paychecks that come in ones, not twos.”

“Estimates vary widely,” the Times says, “but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns—as opposed to changes in individual earnings—may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.”

Hat tip to TaxProf Blog.

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