Is This the Key to a Lasting Marriage?

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Earning similar salaries may be the key to a lasting relationship.

Recent research out of the Cornell Population Center found cohabitating couples who earn about the same amount of money are more likely to stay together than couples with a wider gap in their earnings.

In other words, the research found an association between equal earnings and relationship stability.

For the study published this spring, researcher Patrick Ishizuka set out to understand why some cohabitating couples end up marrying while others separate. He examined how money and work impact relationships, analyzing more than 15 years of Census Bureau data.

The study also found that higher incomes contribute to relationship stability, with couples with both higher and more equal earnings being “significantly less likely” to separate.

These findings support a theory known as “the marriage bar.” It holds that the closer a couple is to achieving the economic standards associated with marriage — such as having enough money to buy a home — the more likely the couple is to get married.

Ishizuka explains:

“Once couples have reached a certain income and wealth threshold, they’re more likely to marry. … They want to have a house and a car and enough savings to have a big wedding; and they also want to have stable jobs and a steady income.”

The trouble with this reality is that it puts marriage further out of reach for couples with less means. While it’s widely known that the divorce rate in general has risen over the past half-century, Ishizuka points out that since the 1960s, divorce rates have been highest among folks with lower levels of education.

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