By Dan Schulman, published on March 1, 2003 - last reviewed on September 1, 2009
When a survey popped this question: "Will you marry?" to 700 women living with their boyfriends, one out of four responded, "I won't." And it seems a man's earning power may affect a woman's decision to wed.
Sociologists Pamela Smock, of the University of Michigan, and Wendy Manning, of Bowling Green State University, found that socioeconomic status is a key factor in a cohabitating woman's expectation of marriage. An analysis of a survey of family growth reveals that women living with men of lesser economic means and lower levels of education were less likely to anticipate marrying their current partner.
Smock explained that while the expectation of marriage is almost 80 percent for white and Hispanic women with high levels of education and income who live with men of equally high socioeconomic standing, this probability falls to 50 percent when women of this same status are paired with men of low socioeconomic means. Among African-American women in this same stratum, this probability drops from 70 percent to 42 percent.
Their study finds that experience is also linked to a waning expectation of marriage. Smock and Manning note that a woman who has been married prior to a live-in relationship shows 59 percent lower odds of expecting to wed her current partner; a woman who has cohabitated before is 49 percent less likely to anticipate a walk down the aisle.
The findings come as the number of opposite-sex cohabitating couples continues to climb from 1 million in the late '70s to 4.7 million in this decade. Smock attributes this in part to a growing acceptance of premarital sex.