New report: family breakdown costs each taxpayer $300 every year.......breaking news.......
Update Report is here Media article is here Loose morals cost NZ$1b a year. Loose morals?????
A report to be released later today estimates the fiscal cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown and decreasing marriage rates is at least $1 billion per year, or $300 per taxpayer. It's actually a pretty good report with a lot of data which I may blog later, but its promotion of marriage is not that convincing.
The Value of Family – Fiscal Benefits of Marriage and Reducing Family Breakdown in New Zealand [online here later today] was commissioned by Family First, and suggests that the private costs of divorce and unmarried childbearing include a range of things from increased risks of poverty and juvenile delinquency to family violence and educational failure.
Although the report does provide a fiscal and social cost of family breakdown, it does not quantify the fiscal benefits of marriage, despite its title, as they are lumped in with - and are no doubt pretty much equal to - the benefits of cohabiting couples - and more than 40 percent of couples aged under 44 are unmarried. But the report discusses decreasing marriage rates,implying that there is a social and economic cost because proportionally fewer people are getting married. But marriage rates are decreasing not just because of cohabitation, they are also decreasing because the parents of a third of this country's children have no partner. And it is the sole parents in poverty and on benefits who are disproportionately adding to these fiscal costs.
The report notes that social policy should promote two parent families, particularly marriage, because they fare better than sole parent families. Given that most children live in two parent families, and of these families, most are married, I would have thought quantification of the fiscal benefits of marriage would be more important and come prior to mentioning decreasing marriage rates. But does it matter whether kids' parents are married? Actually, I would have thought a bigger deal is whether kids are brought up with one parent or two.
What is clear from this report is that marriage is not as significant a variable as whether a household has one or two parents. But if we want to analyse and reduce family breakdown, whether the parents are married is irrelevant if they are living together. Lets look at the number of cohabiters who are splitting up, not just the divorce or decreasing marriage rates. Lets look at poverty. Also, the report's public policy recommendation of marriage guidance should be extended to relationship guidance to promote the durability of all two parent families, not just to those who are about to get a marriage certificate.