I have spent a lot of time and effort debunking myths about marriage – for example, if you get married, you will be lastingly happier and healthier, live longer, have more and better sex, more interpersonal connections, and raise more successful children. (You can find links to all of the debunking here.) But there is one claim about marriage that I do not contest – if you get married, you probably will end up better off financially.
“All Things Single” readers, I’m blogging to you first. My new book, Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matterse, and How to Stop It – written together with 28 other contributors – is now available. You can get it here at Amazon, though as I write this, Amazon has not yet added the description of the book. (They build book pages one or two sections at a time.) You can also get the paperback here, at the book’s own page, where the description does show up.
Recently, my friend and colleague Wendy Morris sent me the picture of this billboard. (In case the words are hard to see, it says, “Married people earn more money.”) Wendy is a terrific singles scholar and she is providing guidance to the next generation of researchers. One of her students, Kate Maloney, first noticed the billboard. (Thanks, Kate and Wendy!) Kate was offended by the crass message that people should marry for money. Wendy objected to the discrimination that factors into married people’s greater haul.
If you’ve read Singled Out, you know my take on the so-called marriage penalty in taxes – it is actually a bonus. Single people are the one who get penalized. A law review article comes to the same conclusion.
There’s a different sense of the marriage penalty that actually is real, according to sociologists Naomi Gerstel and Natalia Sarkisian. They talk about marriage as a greedy institution, because it wants all of the interpersonal time and attention for itself. As I’ve been discussing at Living Single, people who are married pay less attention to other people in their lives than do people who are single. They are less likely to stay in close touch with their siblings, friends, parents, or neighbors, or to support them in emotional or practical ways.
In my writing about singles, I’ve often pointed to the big ways that singles are targets of discrimination. Singles are discriminated against in the housing market, in ways that are blatant and yet not recognized as wrong. They pay more than their share in taxes. Single men are paid less than comparably-accomplished married men, and both single men and single women have less access to benefits such as health insurance. That’s unequal compensation for the same work. There are more than 1,000 federal laws that benefit married people. And that’s just the beginning. (Other examples are in Chapter 12 of Singled Out.)