Finding Mr. or Ms. Right Is Now a Luxury for the Rich

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Money can't buy love, the saying goes, but it certainly improves your bargaining position. That has never been truer thanks to rapidly accelerating economic inequality. Say it with me: Swoon.


In a piece over at Reuters analyzing the income gap's impact on romance, the aptly named Lynn Stuart Parramore has bad news for less affluent paramours: It's easier for rich people to find good mates, get married and stay that way. We've already talked here about the fact that the divorce rate has gone down for college-educated people, and Parramore's analysis really underscores that:

For women, the marriage calculus is pretty simple: you can only reap the full benefits of today's optimal marriage when your partner is an equal who pitches in and treats you well. Marriage is increasingly organized to fit people with ample means — the more you earn, the better your chances at making love last.

Why? Because you can hire someone to do the cleaning, to take care of the kids, to counsel you through rough times, to take those vacations that take the pressure off, to eat better, to exercise more, to be the best version of yourself, or to minimize the worst version. Trust, it's tough to keep the flames of passion burning when you have to get a ride from your cousin to go pay back that car title loan again.

It's what we've always known to be true: Money changes everything. But most of us believe that love is something that is immune to such pesky inconveniences (though it's never been the case: See Sense and Sensibility.) Of course, women still make less money than men, and are still less likely to be top-tier earners. But the combination of big financial sector salaries plus the loss of blue-collar jobs, Parramore says, means men have an even wider income gap among them. Parramore writes:

At the top, high status women are faced with a glut of men looking for a comparable resume. In America, gone are the Mad Men days of the boss marrying the secretary. Now he's more likely to be interested in a dual-hedge fund wedding — and he doesn't care if she can cook. So if you're a female hedgie looking for a spouse, you can literally afford to be picky.

At the bottom, in contrast, women find slim pickings because chronic unemployment, economic uncertainty and a host of associated ills have left the ranks of suitable partners so thinned that many lower-income women have given up on marriage altogether.

Basically, she says, if you're in the top 5 percent, "men are competing for you — and they know they need to commit. If you're in the middle range, you have fewer good matches. If you're at the bottom, well, good luck with that."

Good luck, indeed. And this is just sad:

Women in such skewed mating pools have babies out of wedlock because it makes sense — given limited resources — to invest in themselves and their children rather than trying to make a marriage work with a guy who might not only be broke, but prone to problems like alcoholism and violence.


I've seen this shift personally among the single mothers I knew and heard about growing up in the South on the wrong side of the tracks. Women my grandmother's age were more likely to suffer through any man in spite of his worst qualities — a good man was a man who provided and didn't beat you, end stop, and even one who did hit was often tolerated over being alone with no money. But as women entered the workforce in greater numbers and could at least earn a living, I watched women my mother's age attempt relationships with men who had these problems, but only until it was clearly untenable, when they usually decided to go it alone. Women my older sister's age seem perfectly content to forego such bad options altogether, and if they have kids, they deal.

Speaking of children, they are increasingly being viewed as a frivolous luxury, too. In a piece at Slate looking at this recent attitude, Jessica Grose explores the idea that over 2014, she noticed a stubborn trend of people regarding parenting and its complications as something that, if you do it, it's on you:

When I've written about middle- and upper-middle-class parents wanting benefits like paid parental leave, this is the typical sort of comment people make: "I see no reason to subsidize women's fantasies of 'having it all.' " As if raising children is just about pinning another badge to a Girl Scout sash. When I write about working-class parents just trying to make ends meet and find safe child care for their offspring, the comments are even crueler: "If you can't afford a dog, don't get a dog. If you can't afford a kid, don't get a kid."


But addressing the inequality and subsidizing these situations is exactly what is required to give everyone the best set of options. Parramore writes:

We can insist on laws and policies that better meet our current challenges, like higher minimum wages, stronger unions, and changing the tax code so that it does not favor the wealthy.

But we have to read the writing on the wall: human pairings, if they are to be lasting and satisfying, or even form at all, require an adequate pool of people with stability and security.

That's the way love goes.

Say it with me: Ugh.

Image via Getty.



I'm curious about her conclusions about high-income women and the supposed buyer's market that they've got. I would guess that probably applies to older people who may be looking at a second marriage after some maturing and life experience? Because in my experience, there are very few never-married successful men in their early 30s who want to be married (or, frankly, want to be married to someone who challenges them).