Men from poor backgrounds twice as likely to be single, study finds

The earnings gap between men from richer and poorer backgrounds is also widening, according to new research by the IFS.

Men who grow up poor are far less likely to be in a serious relationship in their 40s than men with richer parents, a new study has found.

Research published today by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) also showed the earnings gap between men from richer and poorer backgrounds is widening, with the thinktank warning of a drop in social mobility in the UK.

“As well as having higher earnings, those from richer families are more likely to be in work, more likely to have a partner and more likely to have a higher-earning partner than those from less well-off backgrounds,” said Chris Belfield, a research economist at IFS and an author of the paper. “And all these inequalities have been widening over time.”

In 2012, more than a third of men from disadvantaged backgrounds lived alone in their early 40s – compared with only one-in-seven men from rich backgrounds.

Even among men in couples, the partners of men from richer backgrounds earned 73% more than the partners of men from poorer families – widening the gulf between rich and poor households.

Among men born 12 years earlier, the differences in partnership status and partner earnings by family background were considerably smaller.

In 2012, employed 42-year-old men whose parents were among the richest fifth of households earned on average 88% more than those from the poorest families. In 2000, the equivalent gap for men of the same age was 47%.

The longitudinal study attributed the large number of single men from poor families to both lower rates of marriage among those from low-income backgrounds and higher rates of relationship breakdown. Men from poorer families were more than twice as likely to be divorced as those from high-income backgrounds (11% rather than 5%) and almost twice as likely never to have been married (36% rather than 20%).

Men from low-income families are also twice as likely to be unemployed as those from richer backgrounds. Only 7% of men growing up in the richest fifth of households were out of work at age 42 in 2012, while more than 15% of men from the poorest fifth of households were unemployed according to the paper.

“This new research highlights the role of longitudinal studies in helping us understand how society is changing from generation to generation,”said Alison Park, Director of CLOSER, a consortium of UK longitudinal studies which funded the research.

“It shows how existing differences in the earnings of men from richer and poorer backgrounds are exacerbated by a new divide, with poorer men in their early 40s being less likely than those from wealthier backgrounds to be living with a partner.”

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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