The Secret to a Happy Marriage? Equal Pay (and More Money)

Ah, the age-old question: what’s the secret to a happy marriage?

According to Hollywood movies and Instagram quotes, the answer lies somewhere between fate and an undying commitment to fulfill your partner’s happiness. Patrick Ishizuka, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University’s Cornell Population Center, however, has a different theory. That theory is cold, hard cash.

According Ishizuka’s research, which was recently published in Demography, the closer a couple is to reaching the economic standards associated with marriage – like having enough money to buy a house – the more likely they are to tie the knot.

“Once couples have reached a certain income and wealth threshold, they’re more likely to marry,” writes Ishizuka. Conversely, “economically disadvantaged couples are also more likely to separate.”

Ishizuka attributes the astronomical cost of modern marriage with extra relationship stress, which could contribute to less happy couples. Fun fact: Canadian couples claim to spend around $30,000 on average on a wedding.

As Ishizuka writes, this keeping up with the Joneses mentality is toxic – “They want to have a house and a car and enough savings to have a big wedding; and they also want to have stable jobs and a steady income.” And when they don’t get it, there’s trouble in paradise.

But it’s also about equal pay. “Equality appears to promote stability,” he said. “Equality in men’s and women’s economic contributions may hold these couples together.” The study suggests that a couple’s happiness is not just about having a certain economic threshold – sure, it would be great to have a combined million dollars coming in, but if one partner is taking home 99% of it, there’s bound to be strife.

All the more reason we need efforts like Maclean’s creative gender pay gap cover.

  • *Ishizuka used data U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation over a seven-year period (60,000 households).