Divorce – Yet More Costs to Society

Serious and important studies such as "Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-One Conclusions from the Social Sciences" (2002) and "Hardwired to Connect" (2003) have documented the ravages of divorce and single parenthood on children as well as their mothers and fathers. The significantly increased incidence of divorce, unwed parenthood and alcohol and substance abuse among children of divorce is well-known to social scientists.

It is also well documented that boys raised without their fathers are approximately twice as likely to engage in criminal and delinquent behavior as boys raised in homes with their biological mother and father (Why Marriage Matters). One NFL Hall of Fame football player, who now works full-time with a Christian ministry to the incarcerated, has said that for years now he has been asking all the prisoners with whom he is in contact,

"Would those of you who had a good relationship with your father please raise you hand?"

The Hall of Famer said he has been asking that question for several years and he is still waiting for the first prisoner's hand to go up.

Now, a study has been published, "The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing," which seeks to detail the financial costs to society resulting from the breakdown of marriage in our society. This new study calculates the financial costs alone to be at least $112 billion dollars a year, resulting from expenses associated with healthcare, criminal justice, welfare and lost income-tax revenue. That means that the breakdown of marriage has cost our country almost $1.1 trillion dollars over the past decade.

The report does not call for any reduction of government services to single-parent families. It does argue that the government should invest in strategies that would strengthen marriages and seek to prevent further breakdown of marriage with all its ravaging costs to society, both social and financial. Surely that is an agenda all Americans can support.

This column originally published at Casting Stones, a blog host by Beliefnet.com.


Dr. Richard Land is president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention's official entity assigned to address social, moral, and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families and their faith.