The Cost of Divorce
Based on the methodology, we estimate that family fragmentation costs U.S. taxpayers at least $112 billion each and every year, or more than $1 trillion each
These costs arise from increased taxpayer expenditures for antipoverty, criminal justice, and education programs, and through lower levels of taxes paid by individuals who, as adults, earn less because of reduced opportunities as a result of having been more likely to grow up in poverty.
Arguments could and should be had over the methodology, but inasmuch as I’d intuitively accept the general proposition that divorce comes with a public price tag, that’s not what concerns me. Rather, it’s the policy implications section that catches my eye (emphasis in original):
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 important as these concerns may be. High rates of family fragmentation impose extraordinary 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.
This is one of those areas in which I think the cultural right has been corrupted by the modern impulse toward big government. If we wish to help families, we should remove some of the stress imposed by high taxes and pervasive regulations. If we wish to encourage marriage, rather than filter money through layered bureaucracies in targeted efforts within the compromise boundaries of public expenditures and support, we should clear the way for those who would teach marriage, so to speak, as a matter of moral imperative.
It isn’t too outlandish of a quip to suggest that those who wish to strengthen the culture of marriage ought to focus on such measures as changing the education system to allow parents to choose whatever schools they like for their children — whether religiously based, or not (provided the schools meet a standard of academic rigor). After protecting the definition of marriage, traditionalists should content themselves with dismantling walls against religion and free speech that have sprouted like weeds in the law.
In the long run, expanding the nanny state will do more damage than good.