wage gap, net worth, singleness, inflation

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The Other Wage Gap?

One of our fastest-growing demographics has a fast-shrinking economic outlook.

As it has for many years in America, a person’s marital status in America coincides directly with their economic status. But the difference between the wealth of a married person and the wealth of an unmarried person is only growing — a gap growing at the same time the percentage of un- and never-married people is rising, too.

Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a nationally representative sample of Americans born during the years 1957 through 1964, says that while unmarried people do grow their net worth over time, but for married people, that happens more quickly (77 percent faster, in fact). Single people are not able to keep up — with the rate of inflation and certainly not with their married peers. 

 The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis had reported in early 2019 that married couples’ wealth was far surpassing the wealth of singles, and likely, in part, because young adults tend to get married later in life than their parents might have. But the difference is staggering.

 And the disparity is only growing, The Wall Street Journal reported in August. While the median net worth of a married household was about four times as much as a single one in 2010, by 2019 that number rose to nine. In 2022, “after a spell of rapid inflation and more than two years of pandemic living,” the Journal said, “single people are getting left further behind.” As inflation has affected housing prices along with everything else, it’s even more difficult to break into ownership and more difficult to build equity. Plus, with pooled assets (and pooled social ties) two people are likely to have a bit more back up when an emergency strikes than one person. 

It’s difficult to grow if you’re not starting with much. And lately it’s even more difficult to begin

For Richer, for Poorer

In 2019, according to the 2020 SIPP,  the median wealth by household type in the U.S. looked like this:

$50,160

Unmarried men

$269,000

Married couples

$36,600

Unmarried women

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