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The Economic Consequences of the Decline of Marriage

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  • Barbara R. Bergmann

    () (American University, Washington, DC, USA)

Abstract

The institution of marriage has served to funnel economic resources from fathers to children. Its continued decline in the countries of the developed world threatens the adequacy of the economic support of human reproduction, now increasingly provided by women. Its decline is also probably implicated in the low birth rates now being registered. The rise of cohabitation has not prevented a rise in the proportion of lone parents, and their numbers are growing rapidly. The children of lone parents are relatively deprived, both in terms of income and adults’ time for child care and housekeeping. Government-supported programs in the United States aimed at rescuing marriage have not been proven effective. Ways need to be explored to get a return of men’s economic support for reproduction. But the most likely way of repairing at least some of the damage to children is a big increase in government provision to the entire population of goods and services that children need: health care, high-quality education, child care, decent housing, university education. This will require in most countries a big rise in taxes and government expenditure.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara R. Bergmann, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of the Decline of Marriage," Economics working papers 2008-18, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  • Handle: RePEc:jku:econwp:2008_18
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    1. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2009. "Marriage and Divorce since World War II: Analyzing the Role of Technological Progress on the Formation of Households," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2008, Volume 23, pages 231-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen & Michael L. Katz, 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 277-317.
    3. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1105-1166, December.
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