Living Single

The truth about singles in our society.

Sometimes Time Magazine Just Can’t Help Itself

Time publishes great story, but teases it with a myth

In all these years of putting the claims about getting married to the empirical test, I have found repeatedly that there is one claim that is unambiguously true - getting married does improve your economic situation. All of the other proclamations - that getting married makes you happier, healthier, live longer, and all the rest - are mostly bunk. As I explained in Singled Out and in Single with Attitude, they are myths, not facts.

There are lots of reasons why marriage can improve the bottom line. (I'll mention just a few in this post. More detailed versions are here and here.) First, there is the treasure trove of federal benefits and protections that envelops every couple the moment they make their marriage official. They have more access to affordable health care, more access to Social Security benefits, more tax breaks (yes, even including income tax), and much more - all cases of legalized discrimination against single people.

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Second, businesses offer couples discounted per-person rates when they travel, dine out, and sign up for health clubs. Even professional organizations get in on the racket - as when they offer discounts to couples. All of these special deals for married people are subsidized by the singles who pay full price.

A third boon for married people, at least in comparison to the singles who live solo, is the "economies of scale": two people sharing the same mortgage, utility bills, and other household expenses have lower per-person bills than one.

Now along comes this very interesting story in Time magazine suggesting that the economic benefits of getting married are not what they used to be. It is still a net gain, financially, to marry: all of those legalized perks for married people are still in place. But the gain is slimmer than it once was.

Why is that? Time lists these reasons: More single women are working at good enough jobs to support themselves and sometimes kids, too; women are having fewer children, and having them later in life; and many singles are not living solo. Among single mothers, for example, more are living with a grandparent or a partner than was true several decades ago.

So far, I like this story. I get to the last paragraph, and I still like it. The focus is on ways "to let unmarried individuals recapture some of the [economic] advantage of marriage." From the perspective of singles advocacy, this is amazing. It is an especially huge improvement over that horrible cover story back in July.

So what's my problem?

Well, I subscribe to the Time magazine weekly emails of their Top 10 stories. The story in question, "The economic benefits of marriage: A closing gap," was rated number 8. Here's their tease: "Getting married may still bring happiness, but new research suggests that marriage is not the long-term wealth enhancer that it once was." First, the story said nothing about getting married and getting happier. Second, it is NOT true that if you get married, you will get happier! (See here or here or here.)

Sometimes Time magazine just can't help itself.

[To read other Living Single posts, click here.]

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., is author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. She is a visiting professor at UCSB.

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