Monday, August 05, 2013

Reasons for Low Marriage Rates

Charles Blow with a NYT op ed on why so few people, especially blacks, are getting married. It’s so ironic that the Republican party, which loves to champion marriage (unless it’s gay marriage, of course) and condemn the disproportionately poor and minority citizens who don’t marry, but at the same time pursues policies in many areas (incarceration, student loans, welfare) that lead to low marriage rates:

Most Americans — both whites and minorities — still believe in marriage, but there are factors working against marriage for many, factors that need to be acknowledged.

One is mass incarceration.

In the two decades preceding the Great Recession, the American prison population nearly tripled, according to the Pew Center on the States. And make no mistake: mass incarceration rips at the fabric of families and whole communities.

…Add to that the explosion in student loan debt, which has passed the trillion-dollar mark, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Such debt is now held by a record one in five households, said a Pew report last year.

But this debt crisis isn’t evenly distributed. According to a report last year by the Center for American Progress: “African-American and Latino students are especially saddled with student debt, with 81 percent of African-American students and 67 percent of Latino students who earned bachelor’s degrees leaving school with debt. This compares to 64 percent of white students who graduate with debt.”

The debt burden is having a significant impact on marriage. A survey published in May by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants showed that 15 percent of respondents delayed marriage because of student loan debt.

Furthermore, for the poorest Americans, there are marriage penalties built into many of our welfare programs. As the Heritage Foundation has pointed out: “Marriage penalties occur in many means-tested programs, such as food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, day care and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. The welfare system should be overhauled to reduce such counterproductive incentives.”

…One can’t bemoan the breakdown of the family — particularly the black family — without at least acknowledging the structural and systematic forces working against its cohesion.

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