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Institute for American Values Institute for Marriage and Public Policy - page 12 / 44

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Page 12

typically more than twice as likely to commit a crime that leads to incarceration, when compared to children who grow up with both their parents.23

Finally, a body of literature that analyzes future crime rates of juvenile offenders shows that stable marriages reduce the likelihood that adult males will commit addi- tional crimes. With a unique data set of former juvenile offenders spanning several decades, Robert Sampson and his colleagues find evidence that marriage leads these former juvenile offenders to commit fewer crimes as adults, even when con- trolling for unobserved selection effects.24

Overall, research on family structure suggests a variety of ways marriage might reduce the demand for costly public services. A stable marriage might reduce the likelihood of domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and parental depression, and might increase the human and social capital available to children in the home in ways that (independent of income) improve children’s educational and other outcomes. Two parents in the home might provide more effective supervision of adolescents, reducing the risk of delinquent activities. At the same time, divorce may be some- times desirable. For example, about one-third of marriages ending in divorce are “high conflict” marriages, and children, on average, appear to be better off when those marriages end.25

In this analysis, however, we adopt the simplifying and extremely cautious assumption that all of the taxpayer costs of divorce and unmarried childbearing stem solely from the negative effects family fragmentation has on poverty in female- headed households. We make this simplifying assumption because the effect of marriage on poverty has been established, is widely accepted, and can be reason- ably well-quantified based on existing data.

III. Is the Methodology Used in This Estimate Reasonable?

T HIS STUDY USES SEVERAL CALCULATIONS to estimate the taxpayer costs of family fragmentation. These estimates include calculations of foregone tax revenue in income taxes, FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes, and state and local taxes as a result of family fragmentation. They also include the direct costs to taxpayers as a result of increased expenditures on local, state, and federal taxpayer- financed programs in the following areas:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance

  • Food Stamps

  • Housing Assistance

  • Medicaid

  • State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

  • Child Welfare programs

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