FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wed., May 14, 2008
CONTACT: Gary Glenn 989-835-7978
Study: Divorce, unwed births cost
Mich. taxpayers $1.5 billion a year
Family group backs bill to change state divorce law
LANSING, Mich. — High rates of divorce and children born out of wedlock cost Michigan taxpayers over $1.5 billion in public expenditures for government services each year, a new nationwide study found, making the need for public policies that promote getting and staying married not just a social or moral issue but a matter of dollars and cents, a statewide family values group said Wednesday.
The American Family Association of Michigan Wednesday forwarded to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and legislative leaders the results of first-ever research that calculated a minimum $112 billion annual cost to taxpayers nationwide resulting from high rates of divorce and unmarried childbearing. The landmark study — “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All 50 States” — was released last month at the National Press Club by two national family policy and research groups, the Institute for American Values and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
Full study and background information: http://www.americanvalues.org/html/coff_mediaadvisory.htm
Executive summary: http://www.americanvalues.org/coff/executive_summary.pdf
“This study documents that divorce and unwed childbearing, which everyone knows are bad for children, are also costing Michigan taxpayers billions of dollars,” wrote AFA-Michigan President Gary Glenn. “Even a small improvement in the health of marriages in Michigan would result in an enormous savings to taxpayers. Stronger families and fewer family breakups mean less crime, less poverty, and less reliance on costly government programs and social services.”
Glenn said an example of a public policy change that would reduce taxpayer costs due to marriage dissolution is bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Fulton Sheen, R-Allegan, Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, and twelve other lawmakers that would only allow divorce in Michigan if a couple is childless or if adultery, abandonment, or spousal or child abuse is involved. (House Bill 5761: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2007-2008/billintroduced/House/htm/2008-HIB-5761.htm)
Such legislation would help save taxpayers money by making it more difficult to break up a marriage when children are involved, Glenn said, pointing to the new study’s finding that of the 1.3 million households in Michigan living in poverty, 57 percent are comprised of households headed by a single or divorced female.
To calculate the fiscal impact of divorce and unwed child-bearing, the study projected that if all of those currently single or divorced females were to marry, a conservative estimate of at least 60 percent of them would see their family’s standard of living rise above the poverty level, reducing the total number of Michigan households living in poverty by 34 percent and saving Michigan taxpayers over $1.5 billion annually. (See state-by-state tables on pages 36 and 38 of the study.)
Dr. Ben Scafidi, Ph.D., economics professor at Georgia College & State University and the study’s principal investigator, said the costs were calculated on the basis of “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.”
“Prior research shows that marriage lifts single mothers out of poverty and therefore reduces the need for costly social benefits,” Scafidi said. “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.”
The study’s findings were vetted by scholars and economists including faculty from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, Morehouse College, Kennesaw State University, Mercer University, the University of Virginia, the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute, and the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. http://www.americanvalues.org/coff/advisors.pdf
Glenn said Michigan avoided even higher costs to taxpayers associated with the potential decline of marriage when voters in 2004 approved a Marriage Protection Amendment to the state constitution reaffirming the state’s legal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.
He noted a commentary by Harvard constitutional law professor Mary Ann Glendon, writing in the Wall Street Journal, who wrote that “the Canadian government, which is considering same-sex marriage legislation, has just realized that retroactive social-security survivor benefits alone would cost its taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.” http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110004735
He also pointed to researchers who believe that public policy decisions in Europe redefining marriage to include homosexual couples and group marriage, thus diluting society’s commitment to marriage as the social ideal for raising children and breaking the traditional connection between marriage and child-bearing has contributed to a dramatic decline in the marriage rate and a dramatic increase in the percentage of children born out of wedlock. Both are major factors, the new study found, in increasing the tax burden for government services.
“Dutch Debate”: http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz200407210936.asp
“The End of Marriage in Scandinavia”: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/660zypwj.asp
“No Nordic Bliss”: http://www.nationalreview.com/kurtz/kurtz200602280810.asp