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A Fifty-State Survey of the Cost of Family Fragmentation

Lynne Marie Kohm

Regent University - School of Law

Rachel K. Toberty

Regent University - School of Law

December 31, 2012

Regent University Law Review, Vol. 25, p. 25, 2012

Government support in America is an emergent trend largely observable in broken households, creating a nation of welfare families that are fragmented and relying on state and federal financial assistance. The cost of family fragmentation was first studied and published in 2008, finding that family breakdown had cost American taxpayers $112 billion a year, documenting for the first time the enormous expense of divorce and unwed childbearing.

Family fragmentation occurs when individuals experience domestic breakdown caused by divorce, or non-marital child bearing. The 2008 Report’s calculations suggested that “to the extent that the decline of marriage increases the number of children and adults eligible for and in need of government services, costs to taxpayers will grow.” These calculations were based on differences in poverty rates by household types which reveal that those headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education. Though already a well-documented fact that family fragmentation is harmful to children, the 2008 Report brought to light that reducing the costs of family fragmentation "is a legitimate concern of government, policymakers and legislators." Now nearly five years later we set out to discover if that research was heeded in some way by various states. This article provides a more recent snapshot of the costs of family fragmentation on a state-by-state basis through examining states’ efforts to correct the rising costs of family fragmentation. It reviews basic family welfare costs and legislative and public policy initiatives directed at reducing family fragmentation by state. Utilizing the same measurements and indicators originally used to compile the 2008 Report, and not being economists, we endeavor to report the facts and any observable difference law and policy has (or has not) made in these past five years.

The article begins with an explanation in Part I of the research included in this study, giving descriptors and indicators for each expense category calculated. Part II offers an overview of various available federal, state and private sector family strengthening initiatives. The raw information by state is then examined in Part III, providing some straightforward analysis of this raw data. Findings are not necessarily prescriptive, but seek to highlight the basic policies that states are using to strengthen families that can result in decreased family fragmentation costs. This brief survey cannot make direct connections, but is offered as a catalyst for states to appropriately alter policies toward family strengthening policy. The great expense to states of family fragmentation, whether from divorce or unwed childbearing, reveal that broken families are not simply about providing more federal funding or protecting individual privacy choices, but are a matter of authentic concern for researchers, taxpayers, legislatures, and government officials.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 64

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Date posted: January 23, 2013  

Suggested Citation

Kohm, Lynne Marie and Toberty, Rachel K., A Fifty-State Survey of the Cost of Family Fragmentation (December 31, 2012). Regent University Law Review, Vol. 25, p. 25, 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2205349

Contact Information

Lynne Marie Kohm (Contact Author)
Regent University - School of Law ( email )
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.regent.edu/kohm
Rachel K. Toberty
Regent University - School of Law ( email )
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States
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