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Institute for American Values Institute for Marriage and Public Policy - page 13 / 44





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  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) assistance

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

  • Head Start

  • School Lunch and Breakfast Programs

  • The Justice System26

As noted previously, we assume taxpayer costs are driven exclusively by increases in poverty; that is, we used the most widely accepted and best quantified conse- quence of divorce and unmarried childbearing. It is important to recognize that if family fragmentation has additional negative effects on child and adult well-being that operate independently of income—and if these effects increase the numbers of children or adults who need and are served by taxpayer-funded social programs— then our methodology will significantly underestimate taxpayer costs. For example, if family fragmentation increases the number of children who suffer from chronic illnesses,27 these additional costs to taxpayers would not be reflected in the esti- mates provided by this study.

To put it another way, the methodology we use assumes that marriage would not improve the habits, mores, or other behaviors of adults or children in ways that lead to reduced social problems or increased productivity.

What Costs Are Associated with Means-Tested Government Programs?

To obtain an estimate of the taxpayer costs of family fragmentation, this study uses the literature and information already described to make three key assumptions:

  • Assumption 1: Marriage lifts zero households headed by a single male out of poverty.

  • Assumption 2: Marriage lifts 60 percent of households headed by a single female out of poverty.

  • Assumption 3: The share of expenditures on government antipoverty programs that is due to family fragmentation is equal to the percent of poverty that results from family fragmentation.28

Taken as a group, these assumptions err on the side of caution. They are more likely to lead to an underestimate of the actual taxpayer costs of family fragmentation rather than an overestimate. Assumption 1 leads us to understate taxpayer costs because marriage might bring a second wage earner into single-father households and/or allow men to focus more effort on labor market activities that would increase household earnings. Assumption 2 is based on the discussion on pages 10–11 of this report, specifically the empirical results provided by Ananat and Michaels and Thomas and Sawhill.29

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