March 28, 2017
More people are shacking up to avoid shaking up their finances. But a new column from USA Today says that's not as easy as it sounds. Moving in with each other can be an economic "game-changer," writes Tamara Holmes, before offering a number of "smart moves" for non-married "domestic bliss." From creating a purchasing plan to talking frankly about obligations, Holmes insists that couples can survive the pitfalls of living together. Toward the end of the article, though, she hints at the dangers of the arrangement and encourages everyone to draw up legal protections for themselves. But here's the irony: there is already a legal protection available to couples -- it's called marriage!
Anyone who's worried about their money should count the costs of cohabiting first. Physically, emotionally, and financially, the numbers don't lie. Men and women who enter into committed, monogamous relationships are safer, healthier, and more prosperous in every measurable way. Studies show that folks who cohabitate are more likely to: be unhappy, divorce, cheat, feel depressed, get abused -- and in the end, they're less likely to marry each other! In a paper just released by Brad Wilcox, the rate of failure for these "trial marriages" is astounding. "Analyzing data from 16 countries across Europe, we find that children born to cohabiting couples are about 90 percent more likely to see their parents break up by the time they turn 12, compared to children born to married parents," he wrote for the Brookings Institute. In places like Norway, the numbers were jaw-dropping. "[C]hildren born to cohabiting parents are about 88 percent more likely to see their parents' union dissolve."
But as long as kids have a man and woman in the house, they'll turn out okay, right? Wrong. If that couple's not married, it could make a big difference in that child's future. "[C]ohabitation continues to confer a stability disadvantage on individual children even as cohabitation has become more normative." Translation: There's no substitute for marriage. As Wilcox points out, "It could be the elaborate ritual marking the entry into marriage; the norms of commitment, fidelity, and permanence associated with the institution; the distinctive treatment of family and friends extended to married couples; or, most likely, a combination of all these things and more -- that promotes greater commitment and stability."
Healthy societies start with healthy homes. That's why our public policy should encourage -- not discourage -- what's best for individuals. When the Supreme Court redefined marriage, it wasn't spreading the benefits of marriage, it was undermining the foundation of the institution itself. Tax policy shouldn't punish marriage -- but promote it. Welfare policy shouldn't discourage marriage -- but promote it. And women who marry the father of their children shouldn't be immediately dropped from public assistance, including housing. We should be building a bridge to self-sufficiency so that the family begins to sow the fiscal and emotional benefits. For eight years, marriage took a beating under an administration determined to devalue it. Let's hope President Trump understands that making America great again starts by making marriage a priority again.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.