Over the past three to four decades, there has been a retreat from marriage in the West. For example, even in a conservative society like Northern Ireland, 42 per cent of births occur outside marriage (according to NISRA demography statistics). One interesting feature of this retreat from marriage is that there is a stark difference between socioeconomic groups. In particular, the retreat from marriage has been greatest among the least educated and poorest sections of society - this holds true across most countries. Click here to read a VOX piece on why this might be the case. The conclusion of the authors is as follows:
"As the gains to household specialisation have decreased and cohabitation has become a socially acceptable mechanism for obtaining the benefits of a joint household, the practical significance of marriage has shifted away from a commitment device that facilitates a long-term gendered division of labour towards one that supports high levels of parental investment in children. Hence, the benefits of marriage are substantially greater for parents who want to adopt a high investment strategy than for those who do not. Well-educated, high-income parents tend to make more intensive investments in their children. We argue that these class differences in patterns of childrearing are the key to understanding observed differences in marriage and parenthood".