The Impact of Broken Families on Our Economy
If you’re 50 years old or older, you might remember an era when Home Economics class was a normal part of school curriculum. While boys were attending Shop Class, the girls were busy in Home Ec, learning about sewing and cooking. It was good practical info that many girls used later in life as they began their own families.
Today, though, the term Home Economics has a very different meaning, as presented in the book “Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Structure” by Nick Schulz. In the book, Schulz lays out a detailed and documented analysis of the deterioration of the American family over the last five decades. The statistics are not only alarming but undoubtedly have contributed to much of the social breakdown we have seen in our nation since 1960, as well as rising government budgets.
Consider these troubling statistics, comparing 1960 to today, which sadly, in every instance, represent human lives:
- Fewer people are marrying.
- Those who do marry will marry later and divorce more frequently
- Births to unmarried mothers have climbed dramatically. In 1960 they were just 5%. Today the number exceeds 40%. And in the black community, out of wedlock births account for 70% of all newborns.
- The percent of children raised by single parents in 1960 was 9%; today it is more than 25%.
- Married family households earn 40% more than single parent households.
- Only 5% of married family households are considered poor vs 30% for single parent households.
- Poor children are two times as likely to climb the economic ladder if their parents are continuously married versus the children of broken or single parent homes.
- According to the Brookings Institute, if young people finish high school, get a job, and marry before having children, their chance at landing in poverty is only 2%. But if these factors are not in place, three-fourths of young people will enter poverty.
Of course, politicians, social scientists, and many media pundits can quote these statistics at length. But the problem isn’t knowing these numbers, but rather quantifying them, and then identifying real solutions to address this undeniable national crisis.
As we think about our nation’s abundance, and the extraordinary success we have had over our 200-plus-year history, there is little doubt that our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, extraordinary documents, contributed to our nation’s greatness. But I would suggest that they do not singularly account for our exceptionalism.
Foundational to these two documents was our Judeo-Christian values, and in particular the Family — an institution that undergirds any thriving society.
Recall that “In the beginning…” when God created the heavens and earth, He created man and woman, and He told them to be fruitful, multiply, and become one flesh. And several thousand years later, Jesus, the Creator, entered our world as Jesus, the Redeemer, and He affirmed the institution of the Family when He shared these words in Matthew 19:4-9:
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
So God established marriage and the family, consisting of one man plus one woman and their children (which sadly today we must now define what a family is). In addition to the Family, God also ordained the Government and Church. But the fundamental building block of any society and nation is the Family. Because of this, we can conclude that “as the family goes, so goes the nation,” establishing a correlation between the strength of the family and the strength of a nation’s economy.
There are two numbers that create a direct correlation between the decline of the family and our nation’s fiscal woes. They are:
These two numbers come directly from a study entitled “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing” that was issued in 2008 using data from 2006. That report, conservative in its estimates, found that the cost of family fragmentation for ONE YEAR in Tennessee was $757 million and nationally was $112 billion. Even using these 10-year-old numbers, we can calculate a 10-year cost to taxpayers of over $1 trillion for family fragmentation in America.
Are you shocked? Don’t be. Note this quote from the report that attempts to identify the far reaching impact of a broken home:
Divorce and unwed childbearing create substantial public costs, paid by taxpayers. Higher rates of crime, drug abuse, education failure, chronic illness, child abuse, domestic violence, and poverty among both adults and children bring with them higher taxpayer costs in diverse forms: more welfare expenditure; increased remedial and special education expenses; higher day-care subsidies; additional child-support collection costs; a range of increased direct court administration costs incurred in regulating post-divorce or unwed families; higher foster care and child protection services; increased Medicaid and Medicare costs; increasingly expensive and harsh crime-control measures to compensate for formerly private regulation of adolescent and young-adult behaviors; and many other similar costs.
As I was doing some research on this topic, I came across a statement from former Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge, the late Bob Moon (in Chattanooga, TN). Note his highly relevant remarks from several years ago:
Government will never solve the inner origins of crime, or gangs or reverse the complex origins of the problems. The primary source of the problems is the family and inside the homes where government cannot go or control without a search warrant or responding to a crime after the fact. In fact, the closest that government usually gets inside of the home for assistance is a sustenance check or food stamps in the mailbox.
Government can do some things and some programs are commendable, but in the big picture, gangs and juvenile violence can only be reduced by committed and responsible parents, teachers and our community working consistently together.
The focus should not be just on money, programs, gang czars, summits and speeches. The focus should be the one that mothers, fathers, teachers and community leaders should be placing on themselves individually.
Marcus Aurelius succinctly stated that “All great nations fall from within before they fall from without.
In the past, our ancestors utilized various ineffective approaches to treat diseases and injuries. In particular, blood-letting used to be a common medical practice. The idea was that by cutting a patient and releasing amounts of their blood they could heal the individual, believing they were "bleeding” a person to health. But after 2,000 years, the practice of blood-letting was finally abandoned. It likely killed many more patients than it ever healed. Yet, it was the commonly accepted practice.
Fast forward to 2017. For over 50 years now, we have seen the American family continue to decline while rates continue to skyrocket for births out of wedlock, percent of children in single homes, percent of children in poverty, divorce rates and more. Yet, bureaucrats, social scientists and entire political parties believe government programs can fix the problem. But these programs seldom if ever focus on the root of the problem. Instead, they seek to put a band-aid on a festering wound.
It’s time to try something new rather than continuing to bleed red ink in our state and federal budgets. Taxpayers have a right, and an obligation, to weigh in on family policies since they are footing the bill to the tune of a trillion dollars per decade when marriages fail.
So what should our response be? Should we only be concerned with this issue because it affects our wallet via our taxes? Or are there bigger reasons to motivate us? Can we reverse the dangerous and destructive trend that we are seeing as it relates to the Family in America?
I think so and here are just a few quick ideas. While they may seem small, remember that every structure is built upon a solid foundation that is made up of individual bricks. And there is not one of those bricks that is not important. So consider these ideas:
Marriage — Is your marriage strong and will you commit to keeping it strong? When you said your vows, “in sickness or health, for better or worse, ‘til death do us part,” did you mean them? Will you vow to never abandon your marriage and children? Will you allow your marriage to demonstrate to others what the family should look like and what Christ can do in your relationship if you are a Christian?
Encourage others in their marriages. Come alongside other couples, particularly if they are young and struggling. Show them the way to work through the bumps that we all have along the way.
Don’t buy into the false narrative that the family doesn’t impact our economy. The fact is, our families drive our economy. Broken families equal a broken economy. Be willing to speak out when the opportunity arises.
Embrace programs that are really making a difference in the inner city, where the marital statistics are at a red-alert level. One such program in Chattanooga is the Y-Cap program that my friend Joe Smith and his son Andy have given thousands of hours to. Their inner city boxing program comes alongside the most vulnerable children and broken homes to provide tutoring, mentoring and life skills. Additionally, they train young boys in the art of boxing. In fact, one of their shining examples, Ryan Martin, just fought his first fight in Madison Square Gardens on HBO last week and successfully defended his WBC Continental Americas title. And he credits Joe and Andy Smith for much of his success. This is the kind of program that truly makes a difference in the lives of boys and girls who are otherwise destined for a life of poverty and likely crime.
Be willing to educate your friends and family on the two numbers that were shared in this article, since they likely have no clue about the dramatic costs of broken families on our budgets:
- $757 million: the annual cost of family fragmentation in Tennessee
- $112 billion: the annual cost of family fragmentation in America
Challenge your church to step up to support the family, particularly broken ones. Too often government will assume what the church has abandoned. And for many years, the role of the church, as pointed out in James 1:27, has been lost: “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble.” We have an epidemic of orphans and widows, via our single-parent homes where daddy has gone AWOL. Sadly the church has gone AWOL as well. So are we surprised that big government is waiting to step in with their big government programs that are certainly capable of running up a big tab, but are incapable of producing permanent good results?
Remember, government is seldom neutral. If it is, it won’t be for long. So government is fully engaged in this issue. But do they have the solution? My belief is they do not. So unless you speak up, the failed solutions of the last decades will continue to be the failed ones of the future.
Ultimately, there is no political solution for a spiritual problem. And this is at the heart of this issue. What God created as a spiritual union cannot be replaced with government programs. So the only genuine solution will occur when we see hearts transformed in America. And as they are, and they are turned back to God, only then will we see the family restored, and our nation made great again.
“If the foundations are destroyed…”
Republished from Awake to Freedom.