Landmark Study Estimates Costs of Family Fragmentation
Special Report - April 16, 2008
Divorce and unwed childbearing cost American taxpayers an estimated $112 billion each year, and at least $1 trillion over a decade, according to a groundbreaking new study released April 15 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All 50 States was commissioned by four policy and research groupsthe Institute for American Values, Georgia Family Council, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, and Families Northwest. “This study documents for the first time, that divorce and unwed childbearingbesides being bad for childrenare also costing taxpayers a ton of money,” said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. “Even a small improvement in the health of marriage in America would result in enormous savings to taxpayers. For example, a one percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion.”
According to the study, divorce and unwed childbearing cost North Carolinians an estimated $1.3 billion a year, with family fragmentation accounting for 11 percent of the state and local tax burden. “These costs are due to increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty, criminal justice and education programs, and through lower levels of taxes paid by individuals whose adult productivity has been negatively affected by increased childhood poverty caused by family fragmentation,” said Ben Scafidi, Ph.D., an economics professor at Georgia College & State University who served as the study’s principal investigator. The study analyzed the direct costs to taxpayers from family fragmentation, such as increased spending through a variety of government programs, including TANF, food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, and child welfare.
The study notes that the majority of female-headed households live in poverty, and that marriage has the potential to lift 60 percent of single women out of poverty. In North Carolina, for example, 56.2 percent of the 1.2 million households in poverty are headed by single women. Based on the assumption that marriage can lift 60 percent of single women out of poverty, the study estimates that marriage alone could reduce poverty in North Carolina by 33.7 percent.
“Prior research shows that marriage lifts single mothers out of poverty and therefore reduces the need for costly social benefits,” said Dr. Scafidi in a press release. “This new report shows that public concern about the decline of marriage need not be based only on ‘moral’ concerns, but that reducing high taxpayer costs of family fragmentation is a legitimate concern of government, policymakers and legislators, as well as community reformers and faith communities.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.