Part of the addictive charm of ITV2’s Love Island was the opportunity it gave us to test the relationship adage “opposites attract”. The reality television show flung together a group of twentysomething singletons in a luxury villa under constant surveillance, with little in common save their desire to become stars.
Some of the unlikely pairings that transpired – a socialite charity worker and a Calvin Klein model; a farm dweller and a former motorsport grid girl – suggest there perhaps is something to that old saying.
But it’s becoming less true in the real world, where, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, we are becoming increasingly likely to settle down with someone like ourselves in terms of background and earnings.
The findings of its new research echo those of previous studies: social mobility – the link between someone’s social background and where they end up in life – has got worse for men born in 1970 compared to those born in 1958. But it shows for the first time this is not just because the link between a man’s earnings, and those of his father have got stronger. Men born to richer parents also tend to end up better off because they are more likely to be coupled up and their partners are also more likely to earn more. The researchers will next be looking at whether these effects also hold for women.
Both insights are profound. Loneliness and isolation have at least as big an impact on health as obesity. It’s particularly a problem among middle-aged men: one in 10 men feels lonely on a daily basis, while 38 is the age men say they have the fewest friendships. That the IFS study shows that men born to poorer parents are much more likely to be single in their 40s is an important reminder that social disadvantage doesn’t just manifest itself in someone’s pay packet, but their much broader sense of wellbeing.
It also underscores how the advantages a parent passes on to their child aren’t just a product of their…