Findings: Why no job can mean no wife

August 9, 2002

Rising unemployment rates make men redundant in more ways than one, according to research from the University of Ulster.

Vani Borooah of the school of economics and politics has used government data on family income to analyse the connection between the likelihood of a man being employed and his marital state: married, cohabiting or single.

He concluded that being unemployed significantly reduced a man's chance of being married.

Professor Borooah used data from 1992 and 1993 and restricted the study to 721 men aged between 18 and 30 who had not been previously married. He ignored men who had children, since many people marry because of a pregnancy or birth of a child and he only wanted to explore how unemployment affected marriage.

The analysis revealed that education and employment status affected the chances of the men being single. Those with higher levels of education tended to delay marriage, perhaps waiting to establish themselves before settling down or perhaps because they had higher expectations of marriage and the conditions necessary for it.

But being unemployed had a greater effect on marriage status than education.

Professor Borooah explained: "The capabilities of unemployed men to function as husbands is impaired by virtue of their joblessness." He said the results showed that men could not have a family without first acquiring work.

Professor Borooah added: "Fifty years ago with low rates of unemployment marriage rates would have been much higher; cohabitation would have been socially disapproved of, perhaps because people had no reason to avoid marriage."

He recommended that if large groups of single men did pose a social problem, the way round it was to find them the sort of steady work that would give them the basis for getting a family.

The research was published in the journal Applied Economics .

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