NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 4, 2006

Since the early 1990s, several studies have come out in support of marriage, even after a brief period when experts questioned the impact of marriage in society. However, the book, "The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially," by sociologist Linda Waite and journalist Maggie Gallagher reaffirms the benefits of marriage.

For example:

  • Married men earn more than single men; in fact, married high school graduates tend to earn on average as much as never-married college graduates; furthermore, when a marriage breaks up, a husband's wage premium declines as well.
  • Married people tend to live longer; mortality rates among unmarried people are 50 percent higher among women and 250 percent higher among men than for married people.
  • A 1987 study indicated the rate of babies born with low birth weights was much higher among white unmarried women (8.5 percent) than their married counterparts (5.1 percent); the rate among black unmarried women was 14.4 percent, compared to just 9.9 percent for their married counterparts.
  • Moreover, the Urban Institute reports that the 50 percent increase in child poverty between the early 1970s and the 1990s was largely attributable to more children being raised in single-parent homes.

Sadly, marriage would ideally benefit poorer individuals, but government tax policies tend to punish those that choose to marry. Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute notes that when two low-income individuals marry, they can expect to lose benefits of which they were entitled to before marriage. This equals about a 12 percent loss of the median income of poor, single women with children.

Government policies regarding taxes and wealth redistribution programs should be aimed at encouraging marriage, not taxing it, says Joel Schwartz of Economic Affairs.

Source: Joel Schwartz, "The Socio-Economic Benefits of Marriage: A Review of Recent Evidence from the United States," Economic Affairs, Institute of Economic Affairs, vol. 25, no. 3, September 2005; and Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, "The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially," Broadway Publishing, October 9, 2001.

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