The ‘burning injustice’, Mrs May, is that the poor no longer wed

May 18, 2018 by

by Harry Benson, TCW:

Harry and Meghan are about to do it. His older brother did it a few years ago. Some of his cousins have done it. His father has even done it twice.

Indeed it would be considered quite odd if Prince Harry and Meghan Markle weren’t going to get married. Royal weddings are a bit of a tradition. Marriage is what they do.

But is that all there is to it? Has marriage been relegated to little more than a tradition?

It’s certainly the case that many people today would ask why they bother. After all, you can live together and have children perfectly well without getting married. Half of all babies are now born to parents who haven’t married.

It wasn’t so long ago that anybody who became parents got married, even if shotgun. Until the 1960s, 95 per cent of children were born to married parents.

Everybody married. And there was an important reason for this. Few women would be prepared to take the chance of sleeping with a man who hadn’t already shown signs of sticking around while they brought up the children that inevitably resulted. Few families would be willing to put up with a man who wanted sex without commitment.

Birth control changed the game. At first it was just a few oddballs who said no to marriage. But gradually unmarried cohabitation became normalised to the point that it is at today.

However, aside from the royals one very large group has stuck with marriage. It’s the rich. Actually it’s more or less anyone in the top income quintile, those in white-collar jobs and a few blue-collar workers earning over £40,000 a year. Almost nine out of ten of this group are married by the time they have young children. For them, the trend away from marriage has barely happened. Broadly speaking, this remains the case right across Europe, including Scandinavia .

Yet at the bottom end of the scale, among those in the lowest income quintile, just 24 per cent of parents with young children are married. The poorest, those with fewest financial and social resources, have abandoned marriage in their droves.

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