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Study Explores the Cost of Divorce to Taxpayers


If you're considering divorce or have already begun divorce proceedings, you know that it can be an emotionally draining process. According to a new study conducted by Ben Scafidi, an economist at Georgia State University, and sponsored by four groups currently pushing for more government action to bolster marriages in the United States, divorce and other "family fragmentation" is also financially draining to taxpayers.

The Associated Press reports that the study estimates the annual cost of family fragmentation (including divorce and single parenthood) to be $112 billion. And, while the study examines a variety of government programs, some experts have reportedly questioned the validity of the supposed implications of the study's findings.

Apparently, the study was launched based on the assumption that households led by single women tend toward higher rates of poverty than those led by two adults. This, in turn, costs the government because of the expense of welfare, health care, criminal justice and lost tax revenue.

The $112 billion figure evidently includes costs to local, state and federal governments. But, according to some experts, the study's findings don't necessarily support the "marriage movement" agenda pursued by the groups that provided the study's funding.

Though no specific suggestions for government intervention are included in the study, it seems the sponsoring groups advocate allocating federal state funds for programs that would bolster the institution of marriage. The argument here is that, even if such programs only prevented a small percentage of divorces, they would translate to significant overall savings.

More than anything else, the sponsoring groups apparently view the study's findings as proof that divorce and single parenthood are matters of public interest that should be addressed with public funding.

But, sources indicate, some experts not involved with the study have questioned the effectiveness of implementing "marriage bolstering" programs. One economist allegedly pointed out that no reliable data on the effectiveness of such program is currently available.

Other critics of the suggestions included in the study cited job creation and education funding as two areas that would also help financially struggling families, regardless of their marital status. Funneling money toward education rather than toward marriage-supporting measures could help children develop the skills necessary to earn decent wages and rise from poverty, regardless of whether their parents were divorced or not.

Yet another expert skeptical of the study's implications pointed out that marriage counseling wouldn't address the problem of high poverty levels in urban black areas, where many single women head households. This particular problem, the expert noted, is related to the high levels of incarceration among black men, which leads to decreased earning potential and partner desirability - both problems that would be unaffected by marriage-support programs.

In short, the study was criticized for a lack of specificity and over-simplification of the causes of and solutions for divorce and family fragmentation in the United States.

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