With the election only a few weeks away, many important issues are being discussed in earnest. On top of the list is the economy. The U.S. economy is unstable at best, affecting us all, especially the most vulnerable in our society. There is no magic answer and no super politician who will cure all our ills. Of course we need strong leadership, but we also need to look at how we function as individuals and communities, and how we can help strengthen society.
I’ve been spending a lot of time researching marriage lately. I know it doesn’t seem like it has much to do with our current financial situation. And I’m not one to suggest that if everyone were married our problems would be erased. However, my own marriage, as well as the research data I’ve been reading, suggests marriage has important societal benefits—economic, psychological and health benefits.
I plan to delve into these issues in this blog. With the economy on everyone’s mind I thought I’d begin with economic benefits. I know everyone (including me) is worried about their tanking 401K and investments. But most of us, thankfully, haven’t glimpsed real poverty. When I feed my children at night, I am saddened by the thought of so many children without nutritious food in front of them. So many single parents work and can’t make ends meet. What does marriage have to do with poverty?
A report from Family Scholars explains, “Married couples build more wealth on average than do otherwise similar singles or cohabiting couples, even after controlling for income.”1 This is not just because two people are bringing home a paycheck. There are economies of scale; buying for two or more costs less per person than buying for one. Many costs are shared, such as a home and utilities. Married couples tend to work together on financial goals in a different way than two people living together. And couples are more likely to receive money from their parents if they are married than if they are single or cohabiting.
On the flip side, the same report says research has consistently shown that divorce and unmarried childbearing increase the economic vulnerability of children and their mothers, even after controlling for race and family background. Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty after a divorce. The majority of children who grow up outside of intact married families experience at least one year of dire poverty.
Despite this evidence to support marriage in our society, cohabiting has become the new norm. Are you happily married? Do you think marriage is good for society or should we keep our noses out of other people’s private lives?
1 Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.