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Why get married ?

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

When the average cost of a marriage in Britain (in 2011) is £20,000 it is surprising that anyone gets married at all.

And when the cost of divorce – which is highly likely these days for half of couples – can see all the money and property built-up confiscated by the court in the divorce settlement, one has to ask how much dumber can men become ?

Long gone are the days when the bride’s family paid for the wedding and reception. For a significant minority (circa 40%) the modern bride has no family – only a single mother. As the first flush of easy no-fault divorce catches up with the next generation it exacts a price from the children of the liberated women.

Today it is more likely to be a mixture of the groom’s family – usually his father – and the couple themselves financing the cost of a wedding. The father of the bride will have either re-married and his commitment to his new family will have generated a new priority. Alternatively, the bride will have lost touch with her real father as her mother’s PAS (parental alienation syndrome) was allowed to fester and drove him away.

So for many couples the only economic solution is cohabiting. A Registry Office wedding, once so fashionable in the 1960s is today just as much the opposite, very unfashionable. Rich or poor, girls want the white wedding and a Registry Office wedding, is seen as a cheap skate option. They feel cheated out of their day in the limelight.

When every discussion in all our media regardless of topic during this ‘recession’ boils down to money – and whether we can afford Plan A rather then Plan B – shouldn’t marriage be part of the discussion ?

From history we know that single motherhood is economically not viable in any circumstances and never has been. Parish records of the 16th and 17th century show that it was a burden every Warden dreaded.

Working 16 hours a week and yet still claiming benefits yields no net revenue to the Exchequer and even working 30 hours a week, single mothers are a gross drain, i.e. the value they pay into society never comes close to the value they take out of society.

The obvious solution is to cohabit but this has its own dangers that are slowly emerging.

Government departments – never the sharpest tool in the box – can’t understand why so many couples are choosing not to marry. The brightest among them don’t want to contemplate thatpeople actually do thing for money. Yes, they understand people go out to work for wages but marriage is different they rationalise – surely they don’t alter their social habits for money ?

Sadly they do. The living apart together fraternity proves this reality. By 2005 this category was officially recognised (see the work of John Haskey, Population Trends, ONS). LAT (living apart together) are made up of mothers who claim additional state benefits for being lone mothers whom they would lose if they admitted that they were actually living with a man. The other negative aspect is that they occupy two addresses when one would suffice.

In “Conflation of marriage and cohabitation” (Sept 2006, p 12), Benson asks whether women who now self-describe themselves as “closely involved” with a male partner aren’t actually being influenced by the language of welfare policy ?

The male partner in the LAT couple might be unemployed or he might be in employment but either way his income is hidden from assessment by the state benefit authorities and effectively the Treasury is being defrauded.

This is a variation on the unintended consequences of AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children, launched in 1935) in the US where the programme’s ‘aid’ was paid only to families with no father was living in the house, prompting poor families to separate in order to qualify. Inadvertently it dispossessed many low income fathers, mostly Black Americans. This left children to grow up without a father present and resulted in poorer ‘outcomes’ at school, behaviourally, and at work. After many decades it was replaced in 1996 by TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).

The ‘social costs’ of correcting unruly and criminal behaviour in later life and investing in yet more prisons also runs into billions of pounds. The cost of insurance for everyday items of the ordinary tax-payer, his house his car, has increased by billions.

When spending on state benefits runs into billions of pounds a year something in the region of one billion might be saved if some of these situations were modulated or did not exist.

The cost of divorce, over and above what each party has to pay, costs the tax-payer over a billion pounds every year. This one billion pounds finances courts, judges, land title transfers, expert witnesses, police time, social services, children homes, welfare reports, etc, etc.  One way of reducing government expenditure currently under discussion is to slash spending on the legal aid scheme. Two high-profile areas which will be affected are divorces and custody awards.

Under the present Coalition government expenditure on this scale is legitimately in the cross-hairs for eradication. The subsequent social unrest, hardship and general disquiet of slashing such services, while economically justified, can only be imagined.

The potential for saving that could easily double the money now spent on trying to curb unruly behaviour or fund the lifestyles of those defrauding the tax payer might be to look again, but in a professional and adult way, marriage.

Government subsidies used to exist for those prepared to invest in one another by marrying. Since the 1970s those subsidies have been slowly erased in a string of Budgets to fund other more fashionable programmes.

Overseas, Commonwealth countries since 1945, and perhaps earlier, prioritised newly arrived couples and provided subsidies for them to buy their new home. These governments were investing in their own future and wealth by investing in newly married couples. This official endorsement was good for the economy, stimulating house building, car buying and a plethora of support industries.

In fact, very much along the same lines that the Coalition announced in Nov 2011 the return of the 95% mortgage for house building: [1]

“First-time buyers trying to raise a deposit to get a foot on the housing ladder are to receive a helping hand from taxpayers.  

The Coalition today launched a scheme to underwrite mortgages worth hundreds of millions of pounds for new homes.  

The Prime Minister promised tough action to help young people own their own home. Many are finding it impossible to get a loan because banks demand deposits of 20 per cent from first-time buyers.”

In the US when the West was opened up, promises of land brought forth a flood of people.
If it is perfectly reasonable and sensible to promote and even subsidise house building for young couples it must be equally reasonable to provide subsidies for marriage, especially when the known ‘outcomes’ are so much better, in terms of wealth creation, psychologically, socially and econionically (for the both the Treasury and the couple).

To do nothing and allow cohabiting to become the de fault position is to plunge helter-skelter into uncharted waters. Some of the reasons why cohabiting is dangerous are shown below but above these 2006 considerations are the changes  mooted in 2010 to allow cohabiting women – but not men – the same rights of property adjustment, ie confiscation, as married women when they separated

Extract from Benson’s paper:

“Conflation of marriage and cohabitation” 2006 http://www.bcft.co.uk/Family%20breakdown%20in%20the%20UK.pdf  

There are a variety of factors that are not shared by married and cohabiting couples.

The basis used in Benson’s paper was the Millennium Cohort Study which is a large scale longitudinal birth cohort study conducted within the four countries of theUnited Kingdom.

The survey contains a wide range of information about 18,819 babies and their parents in 18,553 families. Parents of babies born between September 2000 and January 2002 were interviewed for the first sweep when their babies were 9 months old and for the second sweep when their babies were 3 years old.

Wald numbers (a statistical technique) suggest marital status and age are more important than income, education, race or welfare. Table 4 shows how marital status, age, income education, ethnic group and welfare each independently and significantly influence the risk of family breakdown.

  • Marital status. The odds of a cohabiting couple with a young child splitting up are more than twice that of a married couple of equivalent age, income, education, ethnic group and benefits.
  • Age. The odds of a couple in their teens and 20s splitting up are twice that of a couple in their 30s, independent of other factors.
  • Education. The odds of couples with less education splitting are higher that for those with more education, although therelationship between risk and education level is not entirely linear.
  • Income. The odds of a couple with the lowest family income – less than £15,600 – splitting up are 44% more than that of couples. However rising income does not appear to be a protective factor above this level.
  • Ethnic group. The odds of black mothers splitting up are twice those of white mothers, independent of other factors.  Asian mothers are most likely to stay together.
  • Welfare. The odds of splitting up are 33% higher for those on benefits.
  • Birth order. Whether the child is the first or subsequent birth is not a factor.

[1] “Deposits ‘to be slashed’ as Cameron unveils £400m plan to help first-time buyers” 21st Nov 2011
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2064111/Taxpayer-help-time-buyers-Cameron-plan-underwrite-new-mortgages.html#ixzz1fKlhYXXX

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