Culture

Is Marriage Worth Saving?

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The American Enterprise Institute has a new study that looks at the benefits of marriage:

This study documents five key findings about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America.

The retreat from marriage—a retreat that has been concentrated among lower-income Americans—plays a key role in the changing economic fortunes of American family life. We estimate that the growth in median income of families with children would be 44 percent higher if the United States enjoyed 1980 levels of married parenthood today. Further, at least 32 percent of the growth in family-income inequality since 1979 among families with children and 37 percent of the decline in men’s employment rates during that time can be linked to the decreasing number of Americans who form and maintain stable, married families.

Growing up with both parents (in an intact family) is strongly associated with more education, work, and income among today’s young men and women. Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual “intact-family premium” that amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.

Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty in their individual incomes, and both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes, compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics. For instance, men enjoy a marriage premium of at least $15,900 per year in their individual income compared to their single peers.

The study announces some public policy changes to encourage marriage, such as launching a national campaign to pursue school, work, marriage and parenthood, in that order; doing away with the marriage penalty; adding childcare credits; improving vocational programs; and expanding the maximum earned income tax credit for single, childless adults to $1,000, increasing their marriageability.

The study seems to miss the point: marriage is a liability for men (and for some women, though the law is on their side). The extra income might be nice, but when it gets you stuck with extra child support, alimony or just plain half your stuff taken away, what’s the point of making the extra dough?

Public policy should include making the marriage arena a more fair and equitable place for men. How about doing away with or reducing alimony, giving more equal access to children, making more fair domestic violence laws, doing away with jail time in child support cases and making them more fair, and providing at least some civic education for men and boys on their limited rights so they can make an informed decision?

But the real question is, is marriage worth saving?

More from Dr. Helen: 

On Men and Catcalling

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image illustration via shutterstock / alphaspirit