NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 18, 2008

The messy divorce trial of Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook ended with a settlement last week and the ugliness of their divorce made headlines across the nation.  The sad fact is that even quiet divorces can have terrible consequences both for the individuals involved and for society as a whole, says Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

For example:

  • Some 48 percent of marriages in the United States will end in divorce if current marriage and divorce rates continue in the future.
  • Marriage itself is less-common as well, so the traditional nuclear family -- father, mother and children -- now makes up fewer than 28 percent of all households.
  • There are more households, fully 32 percent, that are made up of single individuals or those cohabitating with non-family members.

The evidence suggests that divorce has a strongly negative effect on the individuals involved -- females and children in particular, say Hassett: 

  • Researchers at Ohio State University found that while divorce reduces a person's wealth by an average of 77 percent, men typically have 2.5 times the wealth of women after a divorce.
  • A 2005 study by Paul Amato reports that if the same share of children lived with their biological parents today as did in 1980, about 300,000 fewer children between the ages of 12 and 18 would repeat a grade, 485,000 fewer would be suspended from school, 250,000 fewer would need psychotherapy, 210,000 fewer would be involved in violence, and 30,000 fewer would attempt suicide every year.

The solution, says Hassett, begins with political parties recognizing that the benefits of higher marriage rates are great and an effective program would be a godsend for children.  Second, we need to acknowledge that our efforts to address the problem so far have been inadequate.

Source: Kevin Hassett, "Christie Brinkley's Not Only Victim of Divorce,", July 14, 2008.

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