Labor Force / Other

Choosing between Marriage and Welfare

You may have noticed that you seem to be receiving fewer wedding invitations in recent years. Before you panic about whether or not you are a good dancer or eat too much cake, there may be another explanation for the lack of invitations. It simply turns out that fewer people are getting married today.

According to a study done in 2012, twenty percent of adults over the age of 24 have never been married. This can be compared to 1960, when only nine percent of adults over the age of 24 had never been married. It is clear that marriage is no longer a priority to adults today, but the reason is not clear. There are many factors that could be contributing to this trend.

Many young adults today are waiting to graduate college and establish a career before settling down. Another reason may be that young adults want to pay off their own debt and establish themselves financially before taking on a partner. Others feel that it is just as easy to cohabitate rather than legally tie the knot. All of these are very plausible explanations, but there is one explanation that we may not be considering. It is possible that welfare is in fact discouraging marriage.

Welfare provides more benefits to single people than married couples. A single mother of two who has an annual income of $15,000 will receive approximately $5,200 in food stamps each year. If that mother decides to marry a man with the same earnings, she will no longer receive any food stamps. This dramatic drop encourages her to stay single and on welfare. Many people see welfare as better than marriage and as a source of income they cannot give up.

Unfortunately, for many who are choosing not to marry due to financial reasons, marriage has actually proven to be beneficial in regards to finances. According to the United States Census Bureau, married couple households are much less likely to live in poverty than single households. The graph below shows the variation.

blog 4 graph

According to one study, the financial benefits of marriage are abundant. Mothers in particular benefit greatly from marriage; they have higher per capita incomes than mothers who are single, divorced or cohabitating. However, mothers are not the only beneficiaries.

Families without children are also better-off financially when there is marriage involved. Married couples have higher family incomes than any other family structure, whether they have children or not. In addition, the mean net worth of a married couple is significantly higher than the mean net worth of a cohabitating couple or a single adult household. Marriage also has a huge financial benefit for children. According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty rate of children living in female-headed families with no spouse is 45.8 percent while the poverty rate for children of married-couple families is only 9.5 percent.

The financial benefits to marriage are endless. Unfortunately, as long as welfare remains unchanged, many people will opt out of marriage in order to secure their current welfare income. Welfare should not be seen as the only way to survive while living in poverty but instead as a temporary assistance. The economic advantages of marriage need to be communicated and re-embraced in our society today.


Rings by Global Panorama is licensed under Creative Commons