Marriage is not affordable for the "working -class", but is still possible for those who can still eke out a middle-class living in our new economy.
In their new paper "Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape," University of Virginia sociologist Sarah Corse and Harvard sociologist Jennifer Silva interviewed 300 working- and middle-class Americans. They found that as the American workforce and the American marriage have destabilized over the past half-century, marriage has become an increasingly inaccessible option for working-class Americans.
Thanks to falling working-class wages, the outsourcing of American manufacturing, the thinning of company benefits, and the rise of part-time and self-employment, American jobs are, in many ways, less stable than ever. Unskilled workers without a higher education are finding it more difficult to translate blue-collar work into middle-class stability.
Many of the working-class Americans interviewed by Silva and Corse are now too concerned with maintaining their “own survival” to “imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others.”
The rise of the freelance economy and the decline of traditional marriage has made life less regimented for middle-class Americans. But middle-class people benefit from the educational backgrounds and salaries necessary to stabilize their own careers and relationships outside of these traditional social structures.
For people at a certain education level and salary potential, the self-employment economy can provide the flexibility to spend time with their families; and sharing resources with a partner is more likely to be an investment than a risk.
But as traditional work and family structures crumble in the United States, middle-class Americans still have the money to build relationships, yet remain satisfied as individuals. But for working-class Americans, personal stability sometimes requires staying single and avoiding the risk of abuse, abandonment, and even more economic and emotional disruption.