(Image: Supplied)

The latest recession has not been felt equally. The young have been hit harder than the old, for example. Victoria has been hit harder than other states. But there’s another dimension too. Look down at your ring finger. Is there a gleaming band encircling it? If so, you’ve probably barely noticed the hit.

The outperformance of married people in the labour market is one of the clearest trends. You might think it is an artefact of the age profile of the married but, as the graph shows, the difference between unmarried and married men is much greater than the difference between old and young for both groups. (The results for women are similar to those for men.)

The latest recession has created labour market conditions for the married that are equivalent to the best boom times for the unmarried. But why? What’s going on? Which way does the causation flow? Are married men able to commit to the job because they are supported at home? Are employers more reluctant to fire the married (who often have children) than the unmarried? Are married people forced to take a job, any job, to support their families and can’t afford to linger as unemployed?

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Does the sound physical and mental health that makes a person a prime target for marriage also make them a valuable employee? Will we see a change in the series around the time gay marriage was permitted in Australia?

It’s a fascinating puzzle that underlines just how differently different people experience the economy.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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