New research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies has found that men from poor backgrounds have lower earnings and are twice as likely to be single as those from rich families.
Key findings include:
- The earnings gap between men with richer parents and their counterparts from less well-off backgrounds is widening. In 2012, employed 42-year-old men whose parents were among the richest fifth of households earned on average 88% more than those from the poorest families. In 2000, the equivalent gap for men of the same age was 47%.
- More than one-in-three men aged 42 from the poorest fifth of families did not live with a partner in 2012, compared with only one-in-seven men from high-income backgrounds. This is the result both of lower rates of marriage and of higher rates of relationship breakdown amongst men from low-income families. Men from low-income households were more than twice as likely to be divorced as those from high-income backgrounds (11% rather than 5%) and almost twice as likely never to have been married (36% rather than 20%). Amongst men born 12 years earlier, there was less difference in partnership status by family background.
- Those from rich backgrounds paid more than twice as much in income tax and National Insurance as those from poor backgrounds in the year 2012. This reduces the intergenerational persistence in inequality: employed men from rich backgrounds have gross earnings 88% higher on average than those from poor backgrounds, but net incomes only 63% higher. The differential tax burden has grown over time.
- Men from poorer backgrounds are twice as likely to be out of work as those from richer backgrounds. Only 7% of men growing up in the richest fifth of households were out of work at age 42 in 2012, while more than 15% of men from the poorest fifth of households were out of work. Men from poorer backgrounds are also more than twice as likely to receive disability benefits as those from better-off families (11% rather than 4%). As men in work typically have more income than those not in paid work, this accentuates the level of intergenerational income persistence.
Chris Belfield, a research economist at IFS and an author of the paper, said: “Focusing solely on the earnings of men in work understates the importance of family background in determining living standards. As well as having higher earnings, those from richer families are more likely to be in work, more likely to have a partner and more likely to have a higher-earning partner than those from less well-off backgrounds. And all these inequalities have been widening over time.”