Why Marriage Is Good Economics

Aparna Mathur on Forbes

Since marriage seems to imply better economic outcomes for families, do states with a larger share of such traditional families fare better? In a new study, Bradford Wilcox, Joseph Price and Robert Lerman answer precisely this question.  The authors study the role of families in influencing the economic development of a state. They find that the higher the proportion of married parents in a state, the better the economic outcomes.

Higher levels of marriage are strongly correlated with more state GDP per capita, greater levels of upward economic mobility, lower levels of child poverty, and higher median family incomes. In comparing states in the top quintile of married parent families with those in the bottom quintile, they find that being in the top quintile is associated with a $1,451 higher per capita GDP, 10.5% greater upward income mobility for children from low income families and a 13.2% decline in the child poverty rate.

These results are not altogether surprising. Other research has shown that changing demographic structures, such as an increase in the share of single mother families, is associated with higher rates of poverty, particularly for children. Moreover, growing up with both parents is associated with a 15 percentage point lower probability of dropping out of high school. Raj Chetty and his colleagues show that family structure plays a large role in economic mobility, and communities with a larger share of single mothers are less upwardly mobile than those with a smaller share of single mother households.

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