For many years social scientists have been warning society about the cost of family fragmentation. There have been ongoing discussions concerning the impact on children and adults emotionally, educationally, economically, physically and in other areas of life. A 2008 report reveals the economic cost of family fragmentation to taxpayers.
According to The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing, by the Institute for American Values, The Georgia Family Council, The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy and Families Northwest, divorce and unwed childbearing conservatively cost taxpayers $122 billion annually. The costs are due to:
- Increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty,
- Criminal justice and education programs, and
- Lower levels of tax revenue from those negatively affected by family fragmentation and increased childhood poverty.
“In 1970 the number of children residing in two-parent families was 85 percent,” said Dr. Ben Scafidi, principal investigator for the report. “In 2005, only 68.3 percent of children reside in two-parent families. This is a dramatic decrease over a short amount of time. Clearly we are seeing the impact.”
Long-standing research shows the potential risks to children from broken homes include:
- Mental illness,
- Physical illness,
- Infant mortality,
- Lower educational attainment,
- Juvenile delinquency,
- Conduct disorders,
- Adult criminality, and
- Early unwed parenthood.
“This report isn’t just about the money; we are talking about real people and real suffering,” said Randy Hicks, president of the Georgia Family Council. “The economic and human costs make family fragmentation a legitimate public concern for all of us. Historically, Americans have resisted the impulse to surrender to negative and hurtful trends. We fight problems like racism, poverty and domestic violence because we understand the stakes are high. And while we’ll never eliminate divorce and unwed childbearing entirely, we can certainly be doing more to help marriages and families succeed.”
The 2008 report sponsors say this is not a slam toward divorced people or single parents. It is purely providing information that we have never had before, and it could be an opportunity for communities to take grassroots prevention efforts to the next level.
So what can YOU do?
- If you have a teen, encourage them to participate in healthy relationship skills class.
- If you’re engaged, participate in skill-building classes that teach you how to have a healthy, long-lasting marriage.
- If you’re in a healthy, long-lasting marriage, encourage newlyweds and offer wisdom along their journey.
- If you belong to a religious organization, look for ways to engage couples and families in ongoing programming that seeks to meet them where they are and give them skills, hope, words of encouragement and a network from which to draw strength in tough times.
- If you’re in a business setting, make sure your employees know about community resources and encourage them to take advantage what is available.
- If your marriage is in trouble or distress, seek help.
It has been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The report states that a 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion annually. This doesn’t even take into account the heartache and emotional upheaval that could potentially be prevented if this report is seen as a call to action to the people of our country.