Marriage benefits don't hurt anyone

 

Marriage is, statistically, an even more effective anti-poverty measure than education. Couples that get married and stay married are far more likely to overcome other obstacles and rise out of poverty.

It's so effective, in fact, that there's a new attack on marriage from the left - it's being seen as a form of privilege that should be punished.

"Conservatives often say that married couples and their children fare better than their counterparts in a variety of measures - and thus the US government should continue to promote marriage," writes feminist thinker Jessica Valenti for The Guardian. "As Senator Marco Rubio put it, marriage is ‘the greatest tool to lift children and families from poverty.' But is it?"

The answer to her question, of course, is yes. That's something even the Obama administration acknowledges, with its many efforts to convince young men to be active fathers to their children and husbands to their wives.

But back to Ms. Valenti. She quotes, approvingly, The Atlantic's claim that "marriage has recently become a capstone for the privileged class."

In other words, it's an advantage that some people have, unfairly. Her reasoning is that married people benefit from the union, and therefore it puts unmarried people at a disadvantage.

"If marriage is increasingly the preserve of those who are already better off, we should stop attaching many benefits to the institution," she writes. "Beyond the issue of marriage as a mechanism for amassing and retaining wealth within a certain segment of the population, marriage's economic incentives often profit those who are already better off."

She complains about the advantages that married people enjoy, which "include tax and estate laws that exempt married couples from estate and gift taxes or lower estate tax liability; tax breaks from capital gains when selling a house, which double for married couples; the income tax ‘marriage benefit,' which favors unequal earners when one is the main breadwinner over couples with two relatively low earned incomes."

Ms. Valenti's real point here is that marriage makes people better off, so we must penalize it in the name of equality: "the state should remove some of the benefits attached to marriage, particularly those that profit the couples who are already better off, and give them to those who need them the most."

Here's what she's missing.

First, there are no victims here. Life and the economy are not zero-sum - in other words, people benefiting from marriage do not do so at the expense of the unmarried.

Second, marriage doesn't concentrate wealth as much as it creates wealth. Married people are statistically more productive, and their doubled efforts and halved expenses result in a steady accumulation of wealth. As the Heritage Foundation notes, "Marriage is a powerful weapon in fighting poverty. In fact, being married has the same effect in reducing poverty that adding five to six years to a parent's level of education has."

Again, there are no victims here. Married couples don't prosper at the expense of the unmarried. Marriage should be celebrated, not penalized.

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