Tying the knot can open up the path to a brighter financial future.
That’s the conclusion of a new report that found a massive “marriage gap” exists in Canada, where the wealthiest Canadians are most likely married or living common-law, while the poorest are more likely to be single.
The report, billed as the first-ever analysis of its kind in Canada and published by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, used Statistics Canada data to study marriage rates between top, middle, and low-income earners over the past 30 years.
Researchers found that marriage is linked to income to “an astonishing degree.” In 2011, the last year of data included in the study, 86 percent of the top quartile of income earners were married or in a common-law relationship. Only 12 percent in the bottom quartile said they were married or living common-law.
About half of middle-class families include a married or common-law couple, the report noted, concluding Canadians are split along marriage lines into “haves and have-nots.”
The findings add to a body of research that suggests healthy marriage offers a variety of economic and social benefits.
“Family formation—how and whether individuals wed, separate, divorce, or merely live together—is important,” reads the report.
“It not only influences individual economic well-being, but also the economic strength of the country. At the same time, economic conditions influence the decision to get married and the timing around family formation.”
In addition to the benefit of dual incomes, the report also points to a larger support network resulting from marriage and a greater ability to handle setbacks such as a death in the family or losing a job. Conversely, family dissolution and instability are often linked to economic hardship and poverty.
As for whether marriage increases individual prosperity or whether those who already have certain advantages are simply more likely to marry, the report found there is evidence for both.
“Whatever direction the correlation runs, the fact remains that marriage is connected to improved financial stability, both privately and in society at large,” it says.
The report’s authors, economist Philip Cross and sociologist Jon Mitchell, recommend that governments, businesses, and communities take steps to encourage and promote healthy marriage in “society’s best interest.”
Such recommendations include public awareness campaigns; positive portrayals of marriage in advertising; tax credits for married families; making marriage counseling more accessible; and business practices that help work-life balance.
“How marriage fares matters for Canada’s current—and future—economic prosperity,” notes the report.