Many more details, including a discussion of the empirical literature on which our conclusions are based, are found in appendix A.
V. What Are the Policy Implications?
OW SHOULD POLICYMAKERS, state legislators, and others respond to these new, rigorous estimates of the large taxpayer costs of family fragmentation?
First, public concern about the decline of marriage need not be based only on the important negative consequences for child well-being or on moral concerns, as impor- tant as these concerns may be. High rates of family fragmentation impose extraordi- nary costs on taxpayers. Reducing these costs is a legitimate concern of government, policymakers, and legislators, as well as civic leaders and faith communities.
Second, even very small increases in stable marriage rates would result in very large returns to taxpayers. For example, a mere 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.12 billion annually.
Given the modest cost of government and civic marriage-strengthening programs, even more modest success rates in strengthening marriages would be cost-effective. Texas, for example, recently appropriated $15 million over two years for marriage education and other programs to increase stable marriage rates. If such a program succeeded in increasing stably married families by just three-tenths of 1 percent, it would still save Texas taxpayers almost $9 million per year. Efforts are currently underway to evaluate the impact of these programs.
ACH YEAR, FAMILY FRAGMENTATION costs American taxpayers at least $112 billion dollars. These costs are recurring—that is, they are incurred each and every year—meaning that the decline of marriage costs American taxpayers more than $1 trillion dollars over a decade. E
These costs are due to increased taxpayer expenditures for antipoverty, criminal jus- tice and school nutrition programs, and through lower levels of taxes paid by indi- viduals whose adult productivity has been negatively influenced by growing up in poverty caused by family fragmentation.
This figure represents a minimum or “lower-bound” estimate. If, as research sug- gests is likely, marriage has additional economic and social benefits to children, adults, and communities—benefits that reduce the need for government services and that operate through mechanisms other than increased income—then the actu- al taxpayer costs of the retreat from marriage are likely much higher.