“It’s a big job just gettin’ by with nine kids and a wife…”
In today’s economy, country legend Merle Haggard might have to change the opening lyrics to his “Workin’ Man Blues” if he wanted to achieve popular appeal with people in the Nation’s working class.
Sociology professors from the University of Virginia and Harvard University say that people who depend on certain jobs that are quickly disappearing from the American economy are less likely to get married, stay married and have their children within marriage than people with different career options.
Their research, "Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape," examines the lifestyles, beliefs and behaviors of people with different education and career histories.
Part of the problem for America’s working class, the researchers say, is a disappearance of factory and industrial jobs that once provided comfortable, and stable, middle class wages for good workers with little or no post-secondary education.
They contend that people working in fields that traditionally require a college education have more stable lifestyles in today’s economic climate, and are often more comfortable building a family.
"Marriage is becoming a distinctive social institution marking middle-class status," said Sarah Corse, an associate professor of sociology in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences and the study’s lead author.
Increasingly, the jobs available to those without a college degree are service-sector jobs, many of which are short-term or part-time and lack benefits.
"Working-class people with insecure work and few resources, little stability and no ability to plan for a foreseeable future become concerned with their own survival and often become unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others," said Corse.
The researchers came to their conclusions through interviews and surveys with more than 300 working- and middle-class men and women in the U.S. Participants were white, African-American, Asian and Latino, between the ages of 18 and 70, and had a range of educational histories.