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Social Costs and Economic Costs

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When social commentators talk about out-of-wedlock births or divorce, they talk about the social and even emotional costs. But are there also economic costs? A study at Georgia State University suggests that the economic costs are significant.

The study is titled “The Taxpayer Cost of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing.” Four pro-marriage groups commissioned the study (e.g., the Institute for American Values and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy). The study concluded that the cost was a minimum of $112 billion a year.

The increased costs come from expenditures for anti-poverty programs, criminal justice programs, educational programs and lost tax revenue. Consider this: if we are spending more than $100 billion a year, that means we are spending more than $1 trillion every decade of our tax dollars due to divorce and out-of-wedlock births. Wonder why your taxes are high? This is one reason.

Of course there are social costs as well. Children are deprived of two parents. Single parents have more complicated lives and no one to shoulder their burdens. Stress, depression, and emotional dependency are some of the costs of divorce and unwed childbirth. The price tag is exorbitant when you add up the social and economic costs.

Many states have designated millions of dollars to marriage education programs. Some states provide marriage-strengthening programs that instruct couples in marriage skills. And most importantly churches and Christian family organizations provide a biblical perspective on marriage and parenting.

This latest study shows the lie to the cliché that personal behavior is a person’s personal and private affairs and isn’t anyone’s business. It turns out that divorce and unwed childbirth costs all of us plenty. Individual choices by couples about marriage and parenting cost all of us over a $1 trillion dollars each decade. We all pay a heavy price.

Viewpoints by Kerby Anderson

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