Marriage, Kids, and the Picket Fence? Household Type and Wealth among U.S. Households, 1989 to 2019

Christine Percheski*, Christina Gibson-Davis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Evidence on how parenthood affects household wealth in the United States has been inconclusive, partially because previous studies have decontextualized parenthood from gender, marital, and relationship status. Yet, insights from economic sociology suggest that wealth-related behaviors are shaped by the intersection of identities, not by a binary classification of parental status. We examine net worth by the intersection of gender, parental, and relationship status during a period of increasing wealth inequality and family diversification. Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances from 1989 through 2019, we show that aggregate comparisons between parents and non-parents mask substantial wealth variation across nine household types. Despite changing social selection into marriage and parenthood, married parents consistently held a wealth advantage over demographically similar adults in other household types. Married parents’ wealth advantage descriptively arises from homeownership, perhaps because the combined spousal and parental identities are normatively and culturally associated with homeownership.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-183
Number of pages25
JournalSociological Science
StatePublished - 2022


  • children
  • cohabitation
  • family
  • home ownership
  • marriage
  • Wealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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