A new report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) claims that married couples will be in the minority by 2050.
CSJ has predicted the decline in the number of married couples by looking at trends in data from the Census and the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS). According to Census data, there has been a five per cent drop in the number of married couples between 2001 and 2011. Co-habitating couples rose by three per cent and lone parents by two per cent.
CSJ’s analysis of MCS data shows that marriage is more common among the middle and upper classes. Roughly 50% of new parents on an income of less than £10,000 per year were married. This rose to 80 per cent for couples earning £21,000 to £31,000 per year, and 90 per cent for couples earning over £52,000 per year.
CSJ is an independent think tank founded by former Conservative Party Leader, Iain Duncan Smith. It launched its report at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on October 8.
The think tank has been critical of what it sees as a lack of progress by the Coalition in “promot[ing] stable families”. It cites previous analysis of MCS data, which found that 75 per cent of family breakdown involving children under age five resulted from the separation of unmarried parents.
MCS data have been used extensively to look at the effects on children of having married versus co-habitating or lone parents. While much of this research shows that children of married parents are more cognitively and emotionally successful, some attribute this to the types of people who choose to get married. A 2011 study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) using MCS and 1970 cohort data concluded that marriage itself provides “little, if any” benefit to child development. IFS researchers found that children born to married parents did better at school than those born to co-habitating parents, but this difference disappeared when factors such as parents’ education and social class were taken into account.
Centre for Social Justice. (2012) Forgotten families? The vanishing agenda. London: CSJ.
Crawford, C., Goodman, A., Greaves, E. and Joyce, R. (2011) Cohabitation, marriage, relationship stability and child outcomes: An update. London: Institute for Fiscal Studies.