The Numbers on Marriage Is a National Tragedy

As politicians compete to prove who loves the middle class more, they're missing the elephant and the donkey in the room.

The middle class needs not just tax breaks and jobs but also marriage.

This is the finding of a new University of Virginia and Institute for American Values report, "The State of Our Unions," which tracks the decline of marriage among the nearly 60 percent of Americans who have high school but not college educations. This has far-reaching repercussions that are not only societal but economic as well. By one estimate cited in the report, which was written by five family scholars, the cost to taxpayers when stable families fail to form is about $112 billion annually -- or more than $1 trillion per decade.

Obviously, marriage or the lack thereof isn't the only cause of our deficit spending, but neither is it irrelevant. Consider that in the 1980s, only 13 percent of children were born outside of marriage among moderately educated mothers. By the end of this century's first decade, the number had risen to 44 percent.

That we seem unfazed by these numbers suggests a lack of attention to the reasons marriage matters in the first place. It isn't so that wedding planners can bilk daydreamers out of $50 billion a year or so that bridezillas can have reality TV shows. Marriage matters because children do best when raised in a stable environment with two committed parents, exceptions notwithstanding.

For whatever reasons -- a fear of appearing judgmental or hypocritical, perhaps -- no one makes a peep. Many of us, after all, have divorced. But this fact doesn't mean that marriage is no longer important or that children's needs have changed. Furthermore, this report isn't concerned with the well-educated, who are typically better equipped to cope with dysfunction, financial or otherwise.

What happens to the other 60 percent? And what happens to a society upon whose beneficence the offspring of these broken or never-formed families ultimately may depend? Why isn't anyone talking about this?

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Kathleen Parker
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