Unstable Families and Cohabitation

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

As the American family continues to erode and societal values shift, the Heritage Foundation held a book event on the topic of healthy marriages and relationships. The book, The Forever Initiative: A Feasible Public Policy Agenda to Help Couples Form and Sustain Healthy Marriages and Relationships, was written by a Brigham Young University professor of Family Life Alan Hawkins.

Dr. Hawkins pointed out that “40%+ of first marriages [and] 60%+ of second marriages end in divorce in our society”, which meant that divorce and unstable family relationships affects “about a million children each year.” And, adding to that, Hawkins said, “There exists an education gap, or an education gap in marriage” where “less educated individuals divorce more than more educated couples.”

Also, Hawkins found that when individuals wait until their mid-20s to marry and do not have children before that, have lower rates of divorce. “Yes,” he admitted, “the divorce rate is going down, but one of the major factors for that, is that people these days are forming families without the legal benefits of marriage, or legal recognition of marriage.” Divorce statistics have dipped as cohabitation has increased, but this means that “family instability is going up” and leads to more breakups in unmarried couples and their families. Even when unmarried couples were together at the birth of their child, the ability to stay together “is really quite low.” And, another statistic that Hawkins cited was how “half of all births to women under the age of 30 are to unwed mothers.” These relationships have a “high risk of dissolution” and “high rates of father’s absence in those children’s lives.” Hawkins added, “The bottom line for all of this is poor outcomes for children and adults. This is very well-documented issue.”

These statistics and their effects are “now well-accepted within the academic community.” Still, economists have struggled to put a dollar amount on the effect of family instability on taxpayers and the economy. Hawkins believes that all or most of the initial cost estimates of family instability were “grossly underestimated.” Some said that it cost taxpayers up to $112 billion, which was how much the Iraq war cost the U.S., and divorce could cost over $3 billion.

Hawkins said, “Family instability is a leading cause of poverty in our society, and so these private decisions…have costs associated with them.” These are “real lives” affected by divorce and Hawkins felt “we need to address the issue that family instability is something that is not good for our society and not good for our children.” It is an accepted fact that “education…is one of the biggest predictors of being able to form and maintain marriages.”


Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.


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