What's (Not) Wrong With Low-Income Marriages


Department of Psychology, Franz Hall, Box 951563, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095 (ttrail@psych.ucla.edu).


In the United States, low marriage rates and high divorce rates among the poor have led policymakers to target this group for skills- and values-based interventions. The current research evaluated the assumptions underlying these interventions; specifically, the authors examined whether low-income respondents held less traditional values toward marriage, had unrealistic standards for marriage, and had more problems managing relational problems than higher income respondents. They assessed these issues in a stratified random sample that oversampled low-income and non-White populations (N = 6,012). The results demonstrated that, relative to higher income respondents, low-income respondents held more traditional values toward marriage, had similar romantic standards for marriage, and experienced similar skills-based relationship problems. Low-income groups had higher economic standards for marriage and experienced more problems related to economic and social issues (e.g., money, drinking/drug use) than did higher income respondents. Thus, efforts to save low-income marriages should directly confront the economic and social realities these couples face.