There's nothing original about this thinking: I call it Kudlow 101. The trouble is, in our society, we are doing this backwards. People don't finish school, don't take a job, don't get married—but do have kids. Wrong order. Wrong formula.
Here are some statistics to back it up:
Naomi Schaefer Riley writes that "children of married parents are more likely to graduate high school, less likely to go to jail, and more likely to delay sexual activity. And of course, children of unmarried parents are more than five times as likely to live in poverty."
Economic writer Robert Samuelson notes that single-parent families have exploded, that more than 40 percent of births now go to the unwed, and that the flight from marriage "may have subtracted from happiness." Citing a study from Isabel Sawhill, he notes that some unwed mothers "will have multiple partners and subject their children 'to a degree of relationship chaos and instability that is hard to grasp.'"
Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore writes "that marriage with a devoted husband and wife in the home is a far better social program than food stamps, Medicaid, public housing, or even all of the combined." Moore points to a Heritage study showing how welfare households are much more likely to have no one working at all, with social assistance becoming a substitute for work.
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A recent report from the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies, authored by W. Bradford Wilcox and Robert Lerman, reveals that married men have higher average incomes, seem to be more productive at work, and work more and earn more. Wilcox and Lerman write that 51 percent of the 1980-2000 decline in male employment is due to the drop in marriage rates, and is highest among unmarried men. They find that "differing employment rates among married and unmarried men aren't simply due to education levels or race either."
They conclude: "Promoting the importance of marriage, looking for ways to reduce marriage penalties in current means-tested welfare programs, and engaging leaders at every level to find ways to strengthen marriage in their communities, are other critical steps to take to restore a culture of marriage."
I'll only add this, as I did at the Coolidge Foundation dinner: While restoring economic growth may be the great challenge of our time, this goal will never be realized until we restore marriage.
In short, marriage is pro-growth. We can't do without it
Commentary by Larry Kudlow, a senior contributor at CNBC and economics editor of the National Review. Follow him on Twitter @Larry_Kudlow.
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