The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and for All Fifty States is a valuable new study that helps quantify the public economic damage borne by taxpayers that is caused by divorce and unwed childbearing. In addition to the high social costs, harm to children, and other individual costs, the public impact certainly merits consideration.

This study was done for the Institute for American Values, an organization devoted to strengthening families. Its methodology is described in detail in the study, and a Q&A section deals with many challenges that might be raised. Just the literature review in the introduction teaches some powerful lessons about the importance of marriage.

I heard an interview today on Wisconsin Public Radio with David Blankenhorn, founder and President of the Institute for American Values. This soft-spoken intellectual is an eloquent defender of marriage and the family. A liberal Wisconsin woman called in and questioned why we need marriage at all. She said she spent time in Sweden and saw that people could come and go in relationships as they wished and have no trouble raising kids because the State provided free day care. "Isn't marriage dead?" she wondered. And while she said she was married with children, she advocated the idea of enhanced "flexibility" by allowing relationships to come and go, with State support for childcare. Blankenhorn was gentle but terribly direct. The advantages of "flexibility," he pointed out, were all for the adults, and certainly not for the children. What study after study has shown is that children need to be raised in a stable environment with parents that love them and will be there for them, not strangers who come and go in flexible relationships. And then the woman got riled, insisting that he had no right to tell her whether she loved her children or not. Well, that's not what he was doing. He was explaining that regardless of her feelings, there is abundant evidence that children do better when raised in a stable marriage, and there are real costs at many levels when adults pursue "flexibility."

The newly released study points to a minimum taxpayer burden of $112 billion a year from divorce and unwed childbearing. So please, I hope you'll do the right thing and wait until marriage to start having children, and then do your best to make your marriage work. But it's not just for my pocketbook that I ask that -- it really is about the children.
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