If you’re wondering where this year’s tax dollars are going, a new study from Georgia State University suggests that at least $112 billion of them are covering the costs of American divorce and out-of-wedlock births. The research, commissioned by four pro-marriage groups, is the first of its kind in calculating the financial toll of family breakdown to taxpayers. In conjunction with the Institute for American Values, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Families Northwest of Redmond, Washington, and the Georgia Family Council, the study explores marriage as “an economic institution” and the broad implications of its dissolution.
A lot of research has been conducted on the social costs of divorce and unwed childbearing; this report, however, is the first I’ve seen that puts a dollar amount on the public costs associated with the breakdown of the family.
In measuring the price tag of “family fragmentation,” researchers analyzed the expenses associated with state and federal anti-poverty, criminal justice, and education initiatives, as well as the decreased tax revenue from these individuals, who are more likely to grow up in low-income homes. In one decade, the decline of marriage squeezes $1 trillion dollars from the pockets of U.S. taxpayers.
Some states, like Texas, are doing all they can to revive marriages and keep families intact. Last year, the Lone Star State designated $7.5 million a year to marriage education programs. If the initiative succeeds with fewer than one percent of families, Texas will have big returns to show for it.
As FRC has said for the last 25 years, our leaders have a vested interest in preserving and strengthening marriage. If the government pledged to reduce family breakdown by just one percent, taxpayers would save around $1.1 billion dollars each year.
And those are just the fiscal benefits. Having a happy, two-parent home to grow up in? That’s priceless.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article is excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.