Richer or Poorer? Trying to figure out if the average American is making more or less compared to a few years ago isn’t easy. BY JAMES PARK
It's no surprise that money affects relationships
Wages are up… actually, wages are down. No, they’re up, but that’s not good for inflation, which is also up—because of wages. Confused? You might not be the only one wondering what’s going on with how much Americans are actually making and what that could mean for your marriage.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times cited statistics from White House economics saying earnings for college graduates were down 5.2 percent from 2000 to 2004. The Census Bureau released data earlier this month showing that the median income for families had at least one parent, age 25 to 34, fell $3,009 from 2000 to 2005. According to the same Los Angeles Times article, the average annual wage for four-year college graduates fell from approximately $54,000 in 2000 to $51,000 by 2004.
But if you were checking the news last week, you may have seen headlines about how wages increased 7.6 percent in the second quarter of this year and how increasing labor costs aren’t good for inflation rates.
Up, down, high, low. Can it all have an impact on your marriage?
"Regardless of cause, declining and stagnating wages can have stressful to disastrous effects on a marriage," says Roberta Iversen, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. She says her research shows that wages for all but the top ten to twenty percent of workers are either stagnating or declining.
"At the same time, productivity is increasing in many industries," she says. "But it’s not that more workers are employed, it’s that currently-employed workers are working longer hours."
So for some, wages have gone up. However, most of us are working longer hours, which can have a negative impact on family life.
Dr. Iversen says that declining wages or wage shifts often happen or are compounded by a job loss of one spouse. "Further, children often express their own concern about their parents' wage reductions and strain in the form of attention or behavior problems in school and a drop in grades."
"It's a vicious downward spiral that puts cumulative strain on a marriage. In my research, both mothers and fathers showed more symptoms on a depression symptom scale when they were unemployed or when wages in a job change were lateral or reduced. Depressive symptoms then further stress a marital relationship," she says.
There are no easy solutions to those undergoing financial strains. Dr. Iversen says that couples shouldn’t be afraid to look for outside help from either family members or government resources. And as for those confusing economic headlines in the news, we probably haven’t seen the last of them as the November elections start to draw near.