The IPPR seem to have managed to actually note something of interest. Only a decade behind everyone else but still, good to see lefties catching up:
However Nick Pearce, the IPPR’s director, voiced concern at the implications of the study.
“This shift has implications for inequality, as well-educated, higher earners marry each other and then pass on the fruits of their combined success to their children,” he said.
“While governments have no business telling people who to marry, and have plenty of bigger economic inequalities to aim at, it is important for policy-makers to understand these trends if they are to have a full understanding of what’s driving the stagnation in social mobility.”
Of course, we need to go further than this: assortative (or associative, your choice) mating has indeed rather changed the face of inequality in the UK.
The move of women into the workforce, the delay of marriage (and primagravidae) until 30 ish, has meant that partners are generally chosen from those one works with. Or at least those one meets in the social activities surrounding work.
Thus we’ve a great increase in professionals marrying professionals, white collar white collar, blue collar blue collar and so on. The social classes may well have sorted themselves this way before: but those in work did not in quite the same way.
Thus we’ve got the rise of the two professional income household: this is rather different from what we had before. I’ve not seen the numbers for the UK but in the US it’s really quite stark. When you look at the distribution of household incomes the top 10% and 20% (ignoring the very few who are making millions upon millions) are dominated by those two professional households. The bottom 10% by those where there’s no one in work. Then two manual worker households and so on.
This obviously has effects on the inequality of household incomes. And there’s really not much that anyone can do about it either. We’re certainly not going to go back to the days when it was the income of the household rather than the individual that was taxed. That would be to make women mere economic appendages again.
Think of it this way. We’ve some household in the Midlands, Dave works full time in metal bashing, making £25k a year, median wages (ish). Poll does a bit of part time work for a further £8k a year. This is true now and was true 50 years ago (yes, working class women have been part of the labour market for most of the time, they’ve had to be).
We’ve also got David who is senior in journalism, on one of the great national newspapers, on £100k plus, perhaps moves into PR on similar sorts of numbers. His Polly was a typist on the newspaper where they met and she’s carried on doing a bit of that here and there for £10-£15k a year (London numbers for part time).
Or today’s numbers, David’s the same but Polly is also one that £100k as she’s also a senior journalist on that great national newspaper.
We’ve moved the gap between household incomes from £33k to £100k to £33k to £200, £250k. Household income inequality has grown without wage income disparity having grown at all.
And there’s really not much that anyone can do about it.