Ethics & Religion
November 9, 2016
Stop Subsidizing Cohabitation
By Mike McManus
Americans elected Donald Trump as President. This column opposed him,
but he's right about one thing: government subsidizes too many people
who don't need it. I propose a solution that would result in more
cohabiting couples getting married, building a healthier life for
themselves and their children.
Susan and Bill are one of the 8.3 million couples who were living
together in 2015. (That figure is 19 times the 430,000 who were
cohabiting in 1960!) Susan gets pregnant, and tells Medicaid she needs
help in covering her costs of delivery, and gets free coverage. When the
baby is born, she is eligible for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid for her
and her child till age 18, plus other goodies worth about $25,000 a year
- because she is single.
However, Susan is not really single since she lives with Bill and has
the benefit of his home and income. So she is "double-dipping," taking
government money on false pretenses. She and Bill might like to marry,
but if they do, she'd lose $25,000.
That's a major reason that America's marriage rate has plummeted 57%
since 1970. In 1960, 72% of all households were headed by married
couples. However, that dropped to only 48% in 2015. In fact there were
only 2,077,000 marriages in 2015 - fewer than the 2,159,000 in 1970! If
the same percentage of couples were marrying now as in 1970, there would
be 1.3 million more marriages! The number of never-married Americans has
soared 5-fold from 8.7 million in 1970 to 41.3 million in 2014.
Thus, as my wife and I reported in a book, Living Together: Myths, Risks
& Answers, cohabitation "is an invisible cancer at the front end" of
marriage, diverting tens of millions from getting married at all. Why
does government subsidizes this mess?
Surprisingly, cohabiting couples are as likely to have children as
married couples. Census reported in 2015 that 39% of cohabiting couples
had 3.25 million children. However in 2015 only 40% of married couples
had children under age 18.
What's the solution? President Trump could say, "We want to encourage
couples to marry rather than just live together. Children of married
couples perform better in school, are far less likely to become
delinquent or to have a baby out-of-wedlock as a teenager. Also, a
married woman will live four years longer than an unmarried woman, men
will live ten years longer, and their children, five years longer.
"Therefore, we will offer a deal for a cohabiting couple with child: Get
married, and we will not cut your benefits for three years, and then
taper them down over three more years."
"Also, as of next month, no new cohabiting couples will get subsidies as
if the mother is single. We believe in marriage, and want to encourage
it as what is best for everyone," Trump could say.
Forty percent of America's births are out-of-wedlock, up from only 5% in
1960. Our unwed birth rate is 20 times the 2% rate in Japan! Result:
Japanese children reared by married parents, academically outperform
American kids. Compared to children from 31 countries around the world
on international math tests, U.S. scored at the bottom, 31st vs. 8th for
Japan. Japanese kids were #3 in science vs. #24 for U.S. children. In
reading, Japanese kids were third best, and Americans, 21st. Other Asian
countries with low unwed birth and divorce rates scored as well as or
better than Japan.
Children fare best if reared by their married parents. That's far more
likely to happen in Asia than in America.
Globally, American kids are not competitive with other children. This
academic failure forecasts ominous long-term implications for the
viability of the U.S. economy.
However, if we increase marriage and decrease divorce, we can reverse
present trends. An example can be seen in El Paso. As I reported in an
earlier column, the pastors and priests of all major El Paso churches
signed a Community Marriage Policy (CMP) pledging to do a much better
job preparing couples for a lifelong marriage, enriching existing ones
and saving those in crisis. My wife and I trained Mentor Couples to
El Paso's divorce rate plunged 79.5% from 1996-2001, the biggest drop of
230 CMP cities. So many kids were raised by their own parents that few
became delinquent. El Paso has had the lowest crime rate in America for
four years. There were only 5 murders in this city of 665,000 in 2010
compared to 310 murders in Detroit, with no CMP.
President Trump should stop subsidizing cohabitation and promote
Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
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