If you want your children to be educated and wealthy, assure they grow up with two married parents, a new study says.
“Growing up with both parents (in an intact family) is strongly associated with more education, work, and income among today’s young men and women,” says a new report on U.S. wage stagnation.
For decades, policymakers and pundits have said that Americans' wages have slowed or even stagnated. However, according to a new report from the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), married heads of households have done much better than their unmarried counterparts.
Family structure is one of the most important factors in whether a person will be educated, wealthy, and married, AEI found.
Looking at 33 years of economic data, the report notes that married heads of households saw their incomes increase from approximately $63,000 per year in 1979 to $85,000 per year by 2012.
Conversely, unmarried heads of households saw their incomes rise from $28,000 per year in 1979 to just $32,000 in 2012.
In addition to household income, the study examined the impact of married families by sex, race, and educational levels. The report found, “Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual 'intact-family premium' that amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.”
Multiplied across the entire country, the nation suffers a massive income drain as a result of family breakdown.
The study concluded that median incomes would be 44 percent higher if America had the same rate of married parents as it did in 1980.
“At least 32 percent of the growth in family-income inequality since 1979 among families with children, and 37 percent of the decline in men’s employment rates during that time can be linked to the decreasing number of Americans who form and maintain stable, married families,” it states.
Men see a “marriage premium” from marriage “of at least $15,900 per year…compared to their single peers.” Women also saw increases in incomes, and “men and women who are currently married and were raised in an intact family enjoy an annual 'family premium' in their household income that exceeds that of their unmarried peers who were raised in nonintact families by at least $42,000.”
Race made little difference to the extrapolated data, as married black men saw income increases of $12,500 compared to their single peers.
Marriage was also generally found to be a greater indicator of income success than education, with the study noting that “men with a high-school degree or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to their single peers.”
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The study offered several policy recommendations, including elimination or reduction of so-called “marriage penalties.” Additionally, increases and expansions of education and tax programs, including the child tax credit, were promoted, as was “a national campaign…that would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage, and then parenthood.”
To be successful, the latter effort “would stress the ways children are more likely to flourish when they are born to married parents with a secure economic foundation,” the report says.
The AEI recommendations fall under the larger umbrella of public policy issues social conservatives have often decried as harmful to families, such as a lack of promotion of abstinence in schools.
Commenting on the study, Heritage Foundation Policy Analyst Rachel Sheffield noted that “promoting the importance of marriage” is also a way to strengthen families.
Many social conservatives also believe that hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually by the federal government on birth control and abortion — including through the funding of Planned Parenthood sex education programs — incentivize poor sexual behavior, which leads to weaker families.