Union Membership Increases Chances of Marriage

In modern mating, job security, wages, and health benefits are important signals that boost one’s chances in the marriage market.

Who knew that a union card was a turn-on?

Well, that might not be literally the case, but a new study finds that for men, union membership can boost their chances of getting hitched.

Research shows that for men, income correlates with marriage rates: The decline in marriage is more pronounced for men in middle and lower income groups. This basic relationship caused sociologists Daniel Schneider and Adam Reich to wonder: Would union membership—which is supposed to lift a person’s wages—also lift a person’s chance at being married?

Using 25 years of data from a cohort of men and women from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, they found evidence that union membership is positively associated with marriage for men, though the relationship was not statistically significant for women in unions.

“We argue that membership in a labor union may increase the marriageability of young men and women either by helping to secure economic benefits in the present or by sending a signal to potential mates about the stability and certainty of future economic prospects,” they write. “We find that men covered by collective bargaining have a significant advantage in first marriage and that this relationship remains after adjusting for possible confounding characteristics such as age, education, region, and attitudes.”

Additionally, they also found that for both men and women, there’s a strong relationship between health insurance coverage and first marriage: Men with healthcare had 30 percent higher odds, and women 16 percent. At the end of the day though, the researchers conclude that it might be that union membership is a signal in the marriage market that a person is secure financially in the longterm.

Union membership has declined drastically in the last three decades: The Labor Department reports that 11.3 percent of wage and salary workers were union members. That number was 20.1 percent in 1983. With research like Schneider and Reich’s in hand, it seems that more than a worker’s job and compensation are at stake in these shifts.

After all, the landscape and expectations for marriage are changing for both men and women. The median age for a first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men, and a recent Pew study found that 23 percent of men and 17 percent of women above 25 have never been married, up from 10 percent and 8 percent in 1960.

The above article, written by Bourree Lam, first appeared in The Atlantic on November 9, 2014