By M. V. Lee Badgett Professor of Economics University of Massachusetts, Amherst As a way to understand what might happen, some writers have looked to the experience of those Scandinavian countries that pioneered giving a marriage-like status to gay and lesbian couples. Denmark adopted such a law in 1989, Norway in 1993, Sweden in […]Topics of Expertise: Gender & Sexuality / LGBTQ Partnering & Families / Marriage & Divorce
Twentieth century social policy in industrial nations was originally formulated on the assumption that one particular family model was both the most prevalent and the most desirable. A family was supposed to consist of a married couple — one male breadwinner and one female homemaker — and their children, and the wages of a man were assumed to be enough to support a wife and children. Almost all women were assumed to be housewives.
Accordingly, women and children’s access to market income was organized through marriage, as was their access to social insurance. Male workers could claim social insurance benefits for themselves and their dependents from the state, unions, employers and other institutions, but women seldom had any way to make claims independently. When husbands died, widows with children could draw pensions from the state and/or receive aid from the husband’s union, while women without husbands usually had no legal way to make such claims. At the same time, work was organized on the assumption that all men were married to women who could devote their time and labor to the care of children.Topics of Expertise: Labor and Workforce / Work & Family
In this briefing paper, we question both this explanation of poverty and the policy prescriptions that derive from it.Marriage offers important social and economic benefits. Children who grow up with married parents generally enjoy a higher standard of living than those living in single-parent households. Two parents are usually better than one not only because they can bring home two paychecks, but also because they can share responsibilities for child care. Marriage often leads to higher levels of paternal involvement than divorce, non-marriage, or cohabitation. Long-term commitments to provide love and support to one another are beneficial for adults, as well as children.Topics of Expertise: Economic Inequality / TANF & Public Assistance