It's the season for giving thanks with Thanksgiving only a day away. There's one thing we should give thanks for that's often overlooked, however: The institution of marriage.
Recently over a dozen scholars associated with the Center for Marriage and Families (CMF) listed 26 reasons why marriage matters. If you support good health, lower taxes, lower poverty rates, lower crime rates and higher levels of education for young people, these are also reasons why you should be thankful for the institution of marriage.
Let's consider just five of the 26 reasons.
1. “Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers.” Generally about 10 percent of children ages 0–6 live in poverty. However, for children living in a female-headed household, the poverty level is about 33 percent.
Researcher Linda Waite notes that over 50 percent of children who grow up outside an intact married family will “experience at least one year of dire poverty” and that roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of divorcing women end up in poverty following the divorce. One reason: The household income of the custodial parent drops by about 50 percent after the divorce.
The opposite is also true: Married couples and their children have much greater wealth than their unmarried counterparts. Married couples save more and, when they spend, they typically buy durable goods — washing machines not Caribbean cruises. Overall, they have over 3.5 times more accumulated wealth than those who are divorced or never married.
2. “Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.” Children of divorced or never-married parents are about twice as likely to drop-out of high school as children of married couples. Children raised in homes where the father is absent represent 71 percent of all high school dropouts.
3. “Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health than do children in other family forms.” Waite reports that, when compared to children of married couples, adult children of divorced parents are: 70 percent more likely to have circulatory problems; 56 percent more likely to show signs of mental illness; and 27 percent more likely to report chronic aches and pains.
And, “40-year-olds from divorced homes were three times as likely to die from all causes as 40-year-olds whose parents stayed married,” Waite said.
It's not only children: Both married men and women “have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles” and enjoy “better health and lower rates of injury, illness and disability.”
4. Crime rates are heavily affected by marriage. Married adults use less alcohol and fewer illegal drugs. Children of divorced or never-married parents make up 75 percent of all adolescent substance-abuse patients, are three times as likely to commit offenses leading to incarceration and make up about 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions. As adults, these children make up about 85 percent of those incarcerated in prison.
5. These social costs add up. Experts Matthew Turvey and David Olson report, “Every divorce costs society about $25,000 to $30,000.” This translates into higher taxes for everyone.
Not everyone should be married. And sometimes divorce is the best answer to a bad situation. However, on Thanksgiving, we should all give thanks for couples who work to make their marriages healthy and fun and for people who try to help couples have healthy marriages. Those folks provide the rest of us a great deal to be thankful for.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.