Gender and Socioeconomic Status Differences In First and Second Marriage Formation

“The first time you marry for love, the second for money, and the third for companionship.” This is a statement that has been attributed to former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Said quote does not sound strange coming from the mind of a well-bred, educated, and classy woman who five years after the death of her first husband erred on the side of caution and proceeded to marry the well know Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Furthermore, this statement is an appropriate introduction to this paper as the article I’m critiquing is titled “Gender and Socioeconomic Status Differences in First and Second Marriage Formation”

Kevin Shafer and Spencer James (2013) examine how gender and socioeconomic status (SES) may influence first and second marriages.

   Both authors are associate professors at Brigham Young University. Kevin Shafer is part of the Sociology Department and his work focuses on fathering, men’s mental health and how it impacts the child’s well-being. His undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies were completed at Ohio State University and he has authored several articles that have been published in sociology and family journals.

Spencer James forms part of the Family Life Department.  His work focuses on global family relationships and their influences on individuals across the lifespan. He completed his B.S. and M.S. at Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. was conferred at Pennsylvania State University.  In addition to this, Dr. James is affiliated with the following associations and councils: International Association for Relationship Research, National Council on Family Relations, and Population Association of America.

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Like his colleague, he has written several articles that have been published in sociology and family journals. The curriculum vitae of both writers leave no doubt that they have ample knowledge and experience in the matters of family relationships as well as marriage because they have devoted their academic career to researching, studying, and continuously publishing articles regarding this subject.

In this work, the writers cite several research articles on this subject of which at least fifteen were published within the last five years or less of the article’s date of print. Two of the aspects of marriage and divorce that are exposed through the cited written works pertain to acquired financial stability in a first marriage (Painter & Shafer, 2011) and how that economic stability and financial security is lost when a divorce occurs (Amato, 2010). The literature also suggests that individuals that possess a high SES tend to be more discerning about partners (Shafer and James, 2013, p 546) and that divorced women were prone to remarry to men who were less educated than what they were (Shafer, 2012). Furthermore, in the current environment, a person’s place in society is determined by the SES of the individual that they choose to marry (Cherlyn, 2004) which means that men placed in the higher SES sphere are viewed as desirable marriage material for both never-married women as well as by divorcees.

In order to determine how socioeconomics and gender play a role in the way individuals choose whom to marry on both the first and second marriage Shafer and James used 12,231 individuals, people who were widowed or cohabiting with a partner were not used for these samples. Likewise, those who had married, divorced, or remarried prior to 1979 were similarly excluded. The test subjects were surveyed for a continuous period of 15 years and then every two years until 2009. The test subjects were either single or on their second marriage and their birth years ranging from 1957 to 1965. Three variables were used; duration, SES, and finally a control variable to include other situations that may affect the decision to marry. Discrete-Time Events and Heterogeneous choice models for binary outcomes (Allison, 1999 & Williams, 2009) were used in order to quantify the data and enable the reader to visualize the results with the use of tables. At the conclusion of the study, the authors expose that their findings state that single individuals have the same chances of acquiring first marriage but that it is men who are more likely to have second nuptials, that divorce will affect women more negatively than men, and that while SES is not a consideration for second marriages well-educated women and low educated men have the least probabilities of remarriage. Gender further affects the determination for remarriage as women who have a prior marriage and children produced by the union may have to settle for men with a lower SES to get back on their feet whereas men, who are usually in the higher tier may have their pick of partners who may be younger, unmarried, and childless (Shafer & James, 2013, p. 552)

Conversely, the authors also state that due to the fact that their subjects were part of a cohort study their findings may not be applicable to the current patterns of marriage and divorce. Furthermore, they postulate that subjects like changes and attitudes towards marriage, although not considered in this study, may impact remarriage. It is also unknown to them why there are so many differences in the patterns of marriage and remarriage and that most of the marriage frameworks and theories fail to explain the reasons for this (Shafer & James, 2013 p. 561). If new studies are done taking these things into consideration it may further explain the reasons for the dynamics in remarriage. Regardless, it is the hope of the writers that their study will open the door for other researchers to further investigate the subject of the formation of marriage and remarriage as well as how it is impacted by age, education, SES, and gender.

This study was accomplished by following a number of individuals throughout several years in order to determine why they were deciding to get married or remarried. The pool of subjects included individuals of all races and cultural backgrounds, diverse education levels, religious affiliations, and different jobs with their respective remunerations. It is because of the researchers’ choice of subjects that the study seems to encompass several points of view as well as opinions. Nonetheless, the study, as explained by the writers, does not take into consideration the opinions that individuals may have regarding the subject and how it may influence their decision. Moreover, the pool of subjects belongs to a generation that holds completely different beliefs and attitudes regarding the marital union, its dissolution, and eventual remarriage as well as how they view second marriages. Therefore, portions of this study may be considered obsolete by current researchers and professionals on the subject. In fact, Tom Jensen, Kevin Shafer, Shenyang Guo, and Jeffry H. Larson state on their research article titled “Differences in

Relationship Stability Between Individuals in First and Second Marriages: A Propensity Score Analysis” which was published in 2017 that individuals who remarry have greater employment instability and that not only are they white but also cohabit prior to the marriage ( Jensen, Et Al. 2017 p. 409) Furthermore, it seems that in this study while race tends to be a factor in the formation of remarriage gender and SES is not. The study that was done by Jensen, Et Al. was completed by using an online evaluation survey that considers the factors that Shafer and James did not include in their research. Furthermore, Marilyn Coleman, Lawrence Ganong, and Mark Fine exposed in their article “Reinvestigating Remarriage: Another Decade of Progress” that even though there are more researchers investigating the reasons and the factors that affect remarriage it is important that cultural, biological, psychological, and interpersonal influences be added to the factors that will affect the data. (Coleman, Et Al., 2004, p. 1302)

The study was one that was thoughtful and well done. It was painstakingly meticulous in the way that the subjects were followed and how their lives and remarriage decisions were documented. While the authors did a great job in acquiring and tallying data and in referencing other studies regarding how gender and SES impacted remarriages it seems that without taking into consideration the moral compass, opinions, and beliefs of the individuals in their pool of subjects the findings may be incomplete. Nevertheless, it is a good article that will definitely put the foot in the door for those researchers who want to delve deeper into the ways that SES and gender impact the decision of remarriage.


  1. Shafer, K., & James, S. L. (2013). Gender and Socioeconomic Status Differences in First and Second Marriage Formation. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75(3), 544–564. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12024
  2. Coleman, M., Ganong, L., & Fine, M. (2000). Reinvestigating Remarriage: Another Decade of Progress. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(4), 1288–1307. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01288.x
  3. Jensen, T. M., Shafer, K., Guo, S., & Larson, J. H. (2016). Differences in Relationship Stability Between Individuals in First and Second Marriages. Journal of Family Issues, 38(3), 406–432. doi: 10.1177/0192513×15604344

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Gender and Socioeconomic Status Differences In First and Second Marriage Formation. (2022, May 15). Retrieved from

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