October 19, 2010
Incentives for Cohabiting Couples To Marry
By Mike McManus
If I were running for governor in my state of Maryland, here’s a
speech I would give this weekend, injecting a fresh idea into the campaign.
“I will propose a new
law to encourage cohabiting couples to marry. Most out-of-wedlock births
are to couples who are committed enough to each other to live together.
These births are not to couples in one-night stands. However, most
cohabitations end within 18 months.
reported that 7.5 million couples are living together in 2010. This is a
17-fold increase from the 430,000 who were doing so in 1960. Yet only
1.4 million of those couples will marry. Four of five cohabiting couples
break up before there is a wedding.
according to a Penn State study, couples who marry after living together are
61% more likely to divorce than couples who remained apart until the
“Half of cohabiting
couples said they were `testing’ the relationship or were in a `trial
marriage.’” However, that’s a myth. Cohabitation is more like a trial
divorce, in which nine out of ten relationships fail. They will either
break up in a premarital divorce or in a real one.
“For Maryland this is
not an academic question. Divorce and unwed births are the two engines
driving up the costs of government. It is one of the major reasons for the
yawning deficits Maryland and other states face.
On average, each
divorce involves one child. The unwed or divorced mother of a child is
eligible for welfare, Medicaid, housing and day care subsidies, food stamps,
etc. According to the Heritage Foundation, the 13 million single parents
with children cost taxpayers $20,000 each, or $260 billion in 2004. That is
probably $300 billion today.
“What does this mean
for Maryland? Of the state’s 78,100 births in 2007, 41% were to unwed
mothers, above the national average. Those 32,000 babies have the worst
possible future prospects in life. If the baby’s father is living with the
mother, the odds are 80% that he will leave her and the child. But what if
the couple marries? More than half will divorce, and that child will be
abandoned by one parent. Maryland had 15,200 divorces last year, which
probably involved one child each.
face a cost of $640 million a year for one year of out-of-wedlock births and
$304 million more per year for the state’s divorces, or about $1 billion for
each added year! These huge costs are 61% federal and 39% state.
“The costs go far
beyond these numbers, both to the children and to the state. According to a
study by the Heritage Foundation, children from fatherless homes are:
5 times more likely to commit suicide than those from intact
homes with married parents
7 times more apt to become teenage mothers or to drop out of
15 times more apt to end up in prison as a teenager
33 times more likely to be seriously abused, requiring medical
73 times more likely to be killed
“If elected Governor,
I will make it my priority to reduce this carnage. How? Here are some
I will create a Maryland Marriage
Commission. It will include key church
and government officials plus leaders in the marriage movement.
No Cost Government Measures:
I will require state welfare offices to
provide information on the value of marriage in reducing poverty and
increasing wealth, happiness and longer lives. (For example, married men
live 10 years longer than single men, and women, 4 years longer.) Publicly
funded birth control clinics will provide information on the benefits of
marriage. Public schools can make a case for not having children until
Reduce Anti-Marriage Penalties:
Currently if cohabiting couples marry,
they lose welfare, Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies, etc. I propose
to extend state benefits for a year if they marry and agree to take courses
to improve their communication and conflict resolution skills. That will
encourage many to marry, which is what is best for them and their children.
After that year, I will taper off subsidies by 25% per year. Since married
men earn more than single men, they won’t need subsidies long term.
government costs would drop by huge amounts, perhaps half of the current
outlays, saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.
“Maryland can be the first state to reduce
cohabitation and raise the marriage rate to give our children and their
parents a brighter future. Thank you.”