Counting the Cost of Divorce:

What Those Who Know Better Rarely Acknowledge As an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, I was encouraged by a professor to research the economic costs of divorce to the State of Utah specifically and to society at large. Unknown at the time, this small project would take on a life of its own. Six years later, after compiling mounds of data and statistics and making numerous phone calls to state agencies, the fruit of my labors were published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.[1] My article provided an overview of the estimated economic costs of divorce to individuals, communities, and state and federal governments, which I pegged at $33.3 billion annually. Two years later the Institute for American Values published a larger report on the broad implications not just of divorce but also unwed childbearing, “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and All Fifty States.” This more comprehensive report conservatively estimated that family fragmentation costs taxpayers a minimum of $112 billion annually. As the report explains: “These costs arise from increased taxpayer expenditures for antipoverty, criminal justice, and education programs, and through lower levels of taxes paid by individuals who, as adults, earn less because of reduced opportunities as a result of having been more likely to grow up in poverty.”[2] The reasons for these public costs of divorce should be obvious. When parents fail to marry or when marriages end in divorce, many mothers and their children become dependent on government-funded assistance programs to compensate for economic resources that would normally be provided by a married father in the home. Parents—especially never-married or divorced mothers—are more likely to turn to government-funded programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for assistance. Th
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