How Marriage, Strong Families Contribute to Economic Growth
by Rachel Sheffield
Is there a connection between strong families and a thriving economy? A new study, “Strong Families, Prosperous States,” takes a step toward answering the question.
“Despite the clear economic gains associated with strong families at the individual level, economists across the ideological spectrum have failed to investigate whether strong families increase economic growth,” co-authors Brad Wilcox, Joseph Price, and Robert Lerman write in the report from the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies.
Some of the main findings:
- States with the highest share of married-parent families are better off than states with the lowest share of such families. They have $1,451 more in per capita GDP, 10.5 percent more upward mobility for low-income children, a 13.2 percent decrease in child poverty, and $3,654 more in median family income. (The researchers controlled for factors such as education, a state’s racial composition, tax policies, and education spending.)
- The proportion of married parents in a state is a top indicator for economic outcomes. The share of married parents, the researchers note, “is generally a stronger predictor of economic mobility, child poverty, and median family income … than are the educational, racial, and age compositions of the states.”
- Violent crime is far lower in states with a greater share of married-parent families. On average, the rate of violent crime is 343 crimes per 100,000 population in states with the highest quintile of married-parent families, compared to an average rate of 563 crimes per 100,000 in states with the lowest quintile of married-parent families.
But why do strong families contribute to a thriving economy?
First, marriage leads to higher participation in the workforce and productivity for men.
“Studies reveal that married men work about 400 hours more and make about $16,000 more per year than their otherwise similar single peers, and they are less likely to quit a job without lining up a new one,” the authors write.
The report includes this chart on marital status and income:
Although motherhood is linked with a decrease in work and income for women, the gains for married men in these areas tend to offset those decreases.
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