Is marriage now just a middle-class institution Today less than half of working class people wed but rates rise among high income earnersAmong those defined as working class fewer than 45 per cent are marriedBut for the number of people in the highest social class who are married has increased to more than two-thirds in ten years
17:08 GMT, 24 February 2013
02:41 GMT, 25 February 2013
Marriage is in sharp decline among the working classes but on the rise among high income earners, new analysis has revealed.
The proportion of people in the highest social class who are married has increased to more than two-thirds in the past ten years.
It marks a reverse of an earlier decline in marriage rates. But among those defined as working class fewer than 45 per cent are married.
Marriage is in sharp decline among the working classes but on the rise among high income earners, new analysis has revealed
The figures were prepared for The Sunday Times by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Anastasia de Waal, deputy director of think-tank Civitas, said the analysis showed a clear class divide which needed studying.
She said lower economic groups might be avoiding marriage because they were not economically secure enough to commit, rather then because of principled reasons.
The ONS figures reveal that in 2001 64.8 per cent of around four million people in social class 1 – such as professionals – were married. By last year that had risen 66.3 per cent of 5.1 million.
But in social class 7 – which includes dustmen and cleaners – the figures fell from 52 per cent of 4.3million in 2001, to 44.5 per cent of 5 million last year.
Among those defined as working class fewer than 45 per cent are married
Professor Les Mayhew of Cass Business School said stable married households tended to accumulate more wealth, which 'could be a factor in wealth passing between generations'.
The Church of England said marriage was the 'gold standard' for human relationships.
A spokesman added: 'Marriage continues to decline but that’s not necessarily because it’s out of favour or fashion.
'Getting married is not ‘just the done thing’ any more, and not being married carries no stigma.
'But marriage is considered by married and unmarried people to be the ‘gold standard’, ‘last piece in the jigsaw’, ‘final frontier’ and ‘life’s most important decision’.
'Delay is one reason why marriage appears to be in decline.
'So far from contemporary society rejecting marriage, it may actually be giving it more elevated position.
'Rather than falling into it, people today are working towards it. There’s nothing beyond marriage for publicly expressing your commitment to each other.'