Ending Hunger in America, 2014 Hunger Report Introduction - Page 22

INTRODUCTION BOX i.4 INCOME INEQUALITY AS IT RELATES TO FAMILY STABILITY Fifty years ago socioeconomic status had little effect on people’s decisions to marry.61 In 1960, 76 percent of college graduates were married, slightly higher than the 72 percent with a high school degree or less.62 By 2010, the gap had widened to 64 percent of college graduates versus 48 percent of people with a high school degree or less.63 According to polling by the Pew Research Center, lack of economic security is a key reason people say they don’t get married.64 While the marriage gap was widening, so was income inequality. In 1979, the earnings gap between a college graduate and a high school graduate was 40 percent; by 2011, it had risen to 76 percent. Studies show that children have a better chance of escaping poverty as adults if they grow up in households where their parents have a stable relationship.65 Studies also show that stable parental relationships are linked to “Since 1979, men’s favorable household economic conditions.66 wages have declined Since 1979, men’s wages have declined in real value all in real value all the way up through the 60th income percentile. The decline is the way up through steeper at lower income levels.67 See Figure i.12. In the bottom the 60th income 20 percent of income earners, seven in 10 women earn as much percentile.” or more than their male partners.68 The declining value of men’s wages has had profound effects on family life. By people’s own admission, economic security is important, particularly as it relates to how men see themselves as providers. “Breadwinning remains core to men’s identity, and when men struggle to find work or have low earnings potential, they are much less likely to marry,” says UCLA sociologist Suzanne Bianchi.69 A startling 88 percent of African Americans, and 77 percent of Latinos, say that for a man to be ready for marriage, he must be able to support a family financially, compared to 62 percent of white respondents.70 It’s probably no coincidence that declining wage rates have affected a greater share of African American and Latino men than white men, and that the median wages of African American and Latino men are lower than for their white counterparts. While men’s wages at the lower end of the income distribution were declining in value, women’s were on the rise—although most progress among women in this group occurred before the year 2000. The gender wage gap has been closing since women started to enter the workforce at an increasing rate. At least part of the reason was to cope with the declining value of the male’s wages. But women are still earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.71 There is little evidence that government programs to strengthen parental relationships in unstable families achieve the desired results.72 But government can take steps that would raise wages, and that would encourage stable marriages and families. www.bread.org/institute? ? 2014 Hunger Report? 31 n