Family and Economic Prosperity
Prosperity and economic prosperity are frequent topics at Growls. You can confirm that by using the search facility in the lower right-hand column.
So when the title of a new report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) appeared in a headline today at Hot Air, it caught my attention. The report, by W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert I. Lerman, is entitled, "For richer, for poorer: How family structures economic success in America." Following is the report's executive summary:
"This study documents five key findings about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America.
- The retreat from marriage—a retreat that has been concentrated among lower-income Americans—plays a key role in the changing economic fortunes of American family life. We estimate that the growth in median income of families with children would be 44 percent higher if the United States enjoyed 1980 levels of married parenthood today. Further, 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.
- 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. 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.
- Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty in their individual incomes, and both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes, compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics. For instance, men enjoy a marriage premium of at least $15,900 per year in their individual income compared to their single peers.
- These two trends reinforce each other. Growing up with both parents increases your odds of becoming highly educated, which in turn leads to higher odds of being married as an adult. Both the added education and marriage result in higher income levels. Indeed, men and women who were raised with both parents present and then go on to marry enjoy an especially high income as adults. 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.
- The advantages of growing up in an intact family and being married extend across the population. They apply about as much to blacks and Hispanics as they do to whites. For instance, black men enjoy a marriage premium of at least $12,500 in their individual income compared to their single peers. The advantages also apply, for the most part, to men and women who are less educated. For instance, men with a high-school degree or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to their single peers.
"Given the economic importance of strong and stable families, policy makers, business executives and owners, and civic leaders should experiment with a range of public and private policies to strengthen and stabilize marriage and family life in the United States. Such efforts should focus on poor and working-class Americans, who have been most affected by the nation’s retreat from marriage. Specifically:
- Public policy should “do no harm” when it comes to marriage. Accordingly, policymakers should eliminate or reduce marriage penalties embedded in many of the nation’s tax and transfer policies designed to serve lower-income Americans and their families.
- Federal and state policy should strengthen the economic foundations of middle- and lower-income family life in three ways: (a) increase the child credit to $3,000 and extend it to both income and payroll taxes; (b) expand the maximum earned income tax credit for single, childless adults to $1,000, increasing their marriageability; and (c) expand and improve vocational education and apprenticeship programs that would strengthen the job prospects of less-educated young adults.
- Civic institutions—joined by a range of private and public partners, from businesses to state governments to public schools—should launch a national campaign around a “success sequence” that would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage, and then parenthood. This campaign would stress the ways children are more likely to flourish when they are born to married parents with a secure economic foundation."
The entire report is 58-pages, which you can access here. The report was released today at an AEI event, which included discussions by two panels. You can watch the two panel discussions here, which last just under three hours.
The following chart from the report provides a policy pathway.
Kudos to the two authors of the study and to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).