portion of their federal TANF, or welfare, funds) to various programs designed to strengthen marriage.6
For example, Oklahoma offers marriage skills classes throughout the state, provid- ing the courses at no charge to low-income participants. In 2007, Texas legislators mandated that a minimum of 1 percent of the federal TANF block grant to the state be spent on marriage promotion activities, providing an estimated $15 million per year for two years.7
In addition to the TANF block grants, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 provided an additional $150 million annually for a Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood Program, administered by the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services. These monies were specifically allocated for programs designed to help couples form and sustain healthy marriage relationships, with up to $50 million available for responsible fatherhood promo- tion.8 Overall, less than 1 percent of TANF dollars are spent annually on healthy marriage programming.
Evaluation is under way to determine the effectiveness of these programs. In the meantime, this study provides the first rigorous estimate of the costs to taxpayers of the decline of marriage, both at the national level and the state level.9
II. How Might Marriage Affect Taxpayers? Empirical Literature Review
R E S E A R C H S U G G E S T S T H A T M A N Y o f t h e s o c i a l p r o b l e m s a n d d i s a d v a n t a g e s a d d r e s s e d b y f e d e r a l a n d s t a t e g o v e r n m e n t p r o g r a m s o c c u r m o r e f r e q u e n t l y a m o n g c h i l d r e n b o r n t o a n d / o r r a i s e d b y s i n g l e p a r e n t s t h a n a m o n g c h i l d r e whose parents get and stay married.10 The potential risks to children raised in fragmented families that have been identified in the literature include poverty, mental illness, physical illness, infant mortality, lower educational attainment (including greater risk of dropping out of high school), juvenile delinquency, con- duct disorders, adult criminality, and early unwed parenthood. In addition, family fragmentation seems to have negative consequences for adults as well, including lower labor supply, physical and mental illness, and a higher likelihood of commit- ting or falling victim to crime.11 n
To the extent that family fragmentation causes negative outcomes for children and adults, it also leads to higher costs to taxpayers through higher spending on antipoverty programs and throughout the justice and educational systems, as well as losses to government coffers in foregone tax revenues.