Not until the withdrawal from marriage of the last fifty years has the West been able to see so clearly its powerful contribution to all aspects of society including the economy.
Gary Becker’s work brought the family back into economics (where it had
been the foundational unit of economics in the beginning, as laid out by the
common sense of Aristotle). Becker’s vein of research has gained more traction
and has influenced the work of many other Nobel Laureates, including Robert Lucas (1995): macro growth
theory of expectations; James Heckman
(2000): econometric theory of samples; and George Akerlof (2001): Keynesian market economics.
Marriage makes men different. And if it does not, their marriages
either end or are unhappy.
Among the economic differences that marriage makes in men, two stand
out: they work harder (married
men are more productive, and an area’s minor dependency ratio
is strongly associated with employment among adult men aged 25 to 54), and
thus earn more (their incomes
increase 26 percent).
Conversely, divorce has a major
negative impact, reducing the income of the child-raising household by 30
percent or more while driving down the growth rate of the economy by one sixth every year
for the last 20 years. This latter happens because divorced men, on average,
decrease their productivity enormously.
In education, the precondition for a good wage in the modern economy,
marriage is a key ingredient to the productivity of children in their learning.
The early home environment lays down a foundation that has an extremely
powerful effect later in life. Children born into a married family have a tremendous educational
advantage, which is evidenced by graduation rates right through to the college
Married families are much more economically efficient households, a
characteristic that is not measured in GDP accounting. What is invisible here
is the real resource efficiency of a major section of the economy (the home
economy). Many married home economies do much better internally because of this
totally neglected aspect of productivity.
As the poor and the working class (even into the middle class quintile
3) withdraw from marriage, the productivity of the U.S. declines and the burden
on the welfare system increases. Furthermore, the success of the social and
welfare policies developed over the last decades
greatly depend on the health of marriage. Failing to recognize this
dependence, U.S. welfare policies continue to fail to lift people out of
poverty (even as the economy grows and world markets massively expand).
Marriage is increasingly the dividing line between those who can learn,
who can work in an information economy, who save, who own their own homes, who
live happier lives, and who live healthier and longer.
Until now, marriage has been the hidden ingredient of a vibrant