On my way home from work yesterday, I came across a poster from a pro-marriage campaign at a bus stop. "Married people earn more money," it said, over a photo of a happy, smiling couple. While I didn't doubt the truth of that statement, I did doubt what it is implying: that marriage is somehow responsible for increasing the wealth of those who are married. After all, people with higher education levels are more likely to get married, which means they were probably going to make more money anyway, whether or not they walked down the aisle.
It turns out I was only half right. Marriage itself does seem to help people save money, as Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, codirector of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, has pointed out. Married people gain from sharing costs such as housing and food and also save on joint health insurance. One study found that couples who are in long-lasting marriages build up significantly more wealth than those who are not.
Still, many factors are responsible for the differences between "marrieds" and "singletons." One Psychology Today blog points out that the federal tax structure and Social Security benefits also have a lot to do with it.
So marriage isn't exactly a ticket to a fat bank account, but it does seem to help.