Tag Archives: poverty

Is the Government Stimulating Your Marriage?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is funding a new campaign aimed to promote the benefits of marriage to young adults. Benefits being touted include better health, greater wealth and increased happiness for those who marry, and improved wellbeing for their children.  While they aren’t telling anyone to run out and get married, the campaign’s goal is to encourage individuals in their 20s not to underestimate the benefits of marriage.

Declining marriage rates haven’t gone unnoticed by the government. Just released statistics report that in 1986, there were 10 marriages per 1,000 people; in 2008 that declined to 7.1 marriages per 1,000.

The $5 million national media campaign is to launch this month using online ads, YouTube video, radio shows, bus and subway ads. A new web site has also been launched, twoofus.org, which provides relationship tips and advice with different sections for couples who are dating, engaged, married and for parents. The web site compiles advice from a variety of relationship and marriage experts and includes podcasts, articles, video and audio.

Of course there is some controversy over using these funds to promote marriage, especially when our country is faced with so many problems at present. While I sympathize with those who say the money needs to be redirected to help fight poverty, I believe that stronger families can better equip our country for the future and can help us ride out the tough times. Research clearly shows that in general children are healthier, safer, better educated and less likely to live in poverty when raised in an intact married family. It also shows that married adults are more likely to be healthier and happier and financially better off when they are married.  (See previous posts for details.)

The bigger question is will young adults—a fiercely independent group—pay attention to the ads? Proponents say they have used public campaigns successfully to change behavior in the past, such as using seat-belts or avoiding smoking or drugs. Time will tell if the campaign will be effective. The campaign budget is at risk of cuts from the new administration due to the worsening economy, so it may not even have time to work.

What do you think? Should the government stay out of our private lives, or is this investment important? Do you think the campaign is a good use of money, or will it fall on deaf ears?

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What Does Marriage Have To Do with Economics?

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.