Is There An Economic Bar for Marriage?

Holland, Jennifer
Working paper no. 2008-13


This study investigates the existence and level of the hypothesized economic bar to marriage, the economic threshold couples must reach before they will marry. I consider differences by socioeconomic status in levels of combined couple earnings associated with increased odds of marriage among cohabiting couples. Earnings are most important for those with a high school degree or less. At $26,000 of combined earnings, marriage odds increase significantly for couples with less than a high school degree. For high school graduates, the increase in marriage odds is found after $34,000. Because the earnings bar for marriage is above the poverty threshold and above the phase-out for many government transfer programs, it is unlikely that income supplements or tax credits would push disadvantaged couples above the bar.