Wealth and Inequality in the Stability of Romantic Relationships


The family is a key institution that transmits inequality, and racial and socioeconomic inequalities in family life have grown markedly. We use data from the 1996 to 2008 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to offer a comprehensive account of how wealth relates to family stability and how that relationship varies by union type, age cohort, and both type and amount of wealth. We find that liquid and illiquid assets and secured debts are associated with a decrease in the likelihood of dissolution, and that large unsecured debts are associated with an increase. These associations do not differ significantly for married and cohabiting couples. We find evidence of both the material and the symbolic importance of wealth for stability. We also find that wealth explains a significant degree of the racial inequality in family stability.


  • Alicia Eads
  • Laura Tach

Publication Type

Journal Name

RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences