Some conservative wingnut groups funded a study on divorced and out-of-wedlock parenting, and results claim that it costs U.S. taxpayers $112 billion each year.

There have been previous attempts to calculate the cost of divorce in America. But the sponsors of the new study, being released Tuesday, said theirs is the first to gauge the broader cost of ”family fragmentation” — both divorce and unwed childbearing.

The study was conducted by Georgia State University economist Ben Scafidi. His work was sponsored by four groups who consider themselves part of a nationwide ”marriage movement” — the New York-based Institute for American Values, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Families Northwest of Redmond, Wash., and the Georgia Family Council, an ally of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.

”The study documents for the first time that divorce and unwed childbearing — besides being bad for children — are costing taxpayers a ton of money,” said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values.

”We keep hearing this from state legislators, ‘Explain to me why this is any of my business? Aren’t these private matters?”’ Blankenhorn said. ”Take a look at these numbers and tell us if you still have any doubt.”

Scafidi’s calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes. The $112 billion estimate includes the cost of federal, state and local government programs, and lost tax revenue at all levels of government.

Wait, an assumption? That can’t be right, can it — that they based a study on prejudice and stereotypes rather than facts? *Rechecks who funded study* Oh.

Hey folks, you want to know what doesn’t cost society a damn dime? Domestic violence, child abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive gambling, kids growing up in a house with two parents who hate each other, kids growing up in a house with parents who are always angry and bitter, depression, stress-induced/agitated health conditions, and a general understanding that people can’t expect or deserve happiness. Why not go back to the good old days?!

By the way, the Iraq war is apparently costing us $435 million each day. And those who are so interested in the high cost of health care, criminal justice, welfare, and education (strangely enough, because I don’t know in what world they think the government pays more money to educate poor children than middle-class children) that is supposedly caused by unwed parenting really should be interested in knowing what $435 million could do:

– Enroll 58,000 children in Head Start.

– Put 8,900 police officers on the street.

– Provide health insurance to 329,200 low-income children.

– Hire 10,700 Border Patrol agents.

– Give Pell Grants to 163,700 college students.

– Provide foreclosure prevention counseling to 260,000 families.

Hmm . . . it seems that most of those suggestions have direct ties to the concerns over the cost of unwed parenting! It’s almost as if ending the war could not only address the above concerns, but also save us some money! I bet that those who are worried about that economic impact are out there protesting the war right now, asking the tough questions about why the hell we’re there, what exactly our exit plan is and what it will take for us to stop sinking billions into a money pit that we never should have started, right?

Of course they’re fucking not. They’re not concerned that society can’t carry the financial burden that they’ve clearly fabricated with numbers pulled straight out of their asses — they don’t want to pay it. If “unwed parenting” cost us only $20 a year, it’d be too much for them. And I don’t think I really even need to get into how the people who are up in arms about the cost of poor children, who just must be born to unwed mothers, are the same lot who support forced birth and call the women who say they can’t afford (another) child “selfish.” Or suggest that they surrender the child they’d rather not give birth to — because foster care and the likely resulting mental health problems for mothers don’t cost taxpayers anything, either.

Who the hell they think they’re going to fool with this “it’s a financial concern” song and dance? They couldn’t give a shit less about the money, which they’re totally okay with being used to invade foreign countries and kill brown people, they’re just looking for another way to frame their “women have uteruses, so women don’t deserve rights” message. Like these groups — very similar to those who payed for this “study” — that wants to outlaw no fault divorce!

Marriage Savers’ organizational work seems to have focused, in the past, on encouraging religious communities to adopt its Community Marriage Policies to make divorce and unmarried cohabitation less acceptable in their congregations, as well as establishing marriage counseling, couple-to-couple mentoring programs, and pre-marital classes for congregants in local churches and synagogues. But with its new Reform Divorce site, it intends to lobby for two new radically conservative divorce provisions: 1.) a “Mutual Consent” divorce law that would do away with the relatively painless divorces couples can attain without charging the other spouse with wrongdoing, and 2.) a “Shared Parenting” clause, which would shift custody arrangements for children of divorced parents to require parents to share parenting time for a third of every week. With these two reforms, McManus’s fellow Divorce Reform advocates estimate they could suppress the divorce rate by 50%.

Another group, Reform Divorce, has this actual text on their website:

A father can lose his family, his home, access to his children and pay high child support. “Anyone who gets married has to worry about losing everything in a divorce,” asserts John Crouch, Director of Americans for Divorce Reform. Perhaps 50 million Americans in broken homes live under court orders, intrusively dictating terms of how each family is to live. No Fault allows one person to file on vague grounds of “incompatibility” even though the other spouse typically wants to save the marriage. The divorce is always granted. That universal outcome appears to violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that no person “be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” How can there be “due process” if every divorce is granted?

Now, out of “life, liberty or property,” which do you think this group feels men are being deprived of? I’ll give you one guess, and a hint: it’s not life or liberty.

Then there’s the Pope, who is currently paying our country a generous visit and who also opposes unwed parenting. Now I might be, oh, a few years late on this, but I just found out that in Ratzinger’s 2004 statement about how politicians who are pro-choice should not be able to receive communion, this little gem appeared:

“The church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion, even among Catholics, about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not, however, with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

Wow. Just . . . damn.

I mean, it doesn’t really surprise me that a high-level Catholic (he was a Cardinal at the time) would find the outright, purposeful and conscious decision to take another person’s life less morally offensive than the decision to control one’s own body (yeah, I know . . . embryo, I mean baby = precious, innocent deserving life . . . Iraqi = who gives a shit?). But I have to say that the willingness to openly make such an argument impresses me. Brace yourself: I think that the Pope might be a Republican. Who would’ve guessed?

These folks are all on the same side and for the same reasons — and I don’t think that’s a huge secret. Also making the sale of this bullshit difficult is the fact that, oops, 45% of new mothers in the U.S. are not married.

But then again, when I’ve given the American people credit for being able to see through transparent wingnut ploys, I’ve usually been disappointed. So if you’re looking to get a divorce or have a child without being married, you might want to get on top of that. After all, we’re in an election year.


1 lindabeth April 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm

It’s not about the taxes, per se, as you say $20 would be too much…they are just an excuse to reiterate and reinforce ‘traditional marriage and to position non-married (parents) as less-than-citizens.

2 kelly g. April 16, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Now, out of “life, liberty or property,” which do you think this group feels men are being deprived of? I’ll give you one guess, and a hint: it’s not life or liberty.

Taking this even further, in their warped worldview it’s simply un-fucking-acceptable that a man should be deprived of his property – income, possessions, and wife and children (!) – so much so that we should go to such lengths to prevent this atrocity that we’ll essentially be depriving another party, the woman, of her very liberty.

Oh, wait, property doesn’t have human rights. Silly me.

3 Melissa April 16, 2008 at 2:31 pm

I am so glad that you wrote about this. I heard the “report” on the way to work yesterday morning and then read about it again on Trust me, as a single mom, I could not see straight for about 20 minutes.
I am now in a position that I no longer qualify for help/welfare/whatever, but when I was in college finishing my degree, I did get food stamps, but would have gladly traded them for a little help with the ridiculous tuition and book fees I was paying.

But I digress on that point – the thing that REALLY got me steamed was that they tried to use this “report” to say that we needed to work on “marriage reform” (forced marriage/forced to stay in a bad marriage/slavery…) because it will be easier on the governments pocketbook!!!!

Here is an idea – why don’t we start looking at the ridiculously low minimum wage? That way single mothers (and fathers) that are not in a position to go or go back to college can afford to live in more than a run-down ghetto apartment where they won’t even deliver you pizza after sunset? Even better – why don’t we begin looking at ways to change the stigma that surround the fact of being a single mother so that they do not get turned for jobs, let go from jobs b/c they are the ONLY ones that are able to take of their child(ren)?

But of course that won’t fly – let’s just make sure that these poor little women have a man to take care of them – that will fix everything.
Right-wing fucktards.

4 Cara April 16, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Definitely, Melissa. And a point that I left out (but hope was implied) is that even if parenting outside of marriage somehow, someway cost us twice the amount they claim, it still wouldn’t be a reason to try to force women into marriage or dismantle no fault divorce. Though it would be additional reason to take up the measures that you mention and that we should already be working on. But then again, I’m a crazy liberal like that.

5 Melissa April 16, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Yeah – that crazy liberal thinking :-)
It just brought up some bad vibes from when I was “let go” from my last job. They would get pissy with me for going to get my kid if the school nurse called or the times I had to take off when he was sick. Of course this was all coming from married men with stay-at-home wives or unmarried men. Even though I would take the work home and do it, apparently I just didn’t fit into their “culture” – their words not mine. Grrrrr.

6 lepidopteryx April 16, 2008 at 3:57 pm

So according to Marriage Savers, I should have stayed and worked it out with the husband who raped me, threw a television at me, and came home with a stranger’s lipstick on his underpants. He didn’t want a divorce.

Or perhaps I should have stayed with the husband who undermined my authority with my child (not his – she was conceived during a rebound relationship after my first divorce). The one who thought that it was perfectly ok to threaten my then-adolescent child with corporal punishment even though I had explicitly forbidden it. The one who thought that witholding meals from a growing child was an acceptable means of punishment. The one who knew my rules regarding her and expected me to abandon them in favor of his after we were married. The one whose behavior led to her developing an eating disorder. He didn’t want a divorce either.

7 Melissa April 16, 2008 at 4:11 pm

I know, lepidopteryx….I think it is the fact that these “marriage-saving” groups are so far from any basis of reality that really makes this frustrating. I mean, “unilateral divorces”? How many abusive men do you know that actually want a divorce? I suppose that is why when abused women want to leave they are so often threatened with death…not like the mutherfuckers say, “Well, if you leave, then I will just divorce you! How do you like that?”

And then there is the “mutual consent/unilateral divorce” that would do away with the relatively painless divorces couples can attain without charging the other spouse with wrongdoing
This again, in an abusive relationship, puts the burden of proof on the woman. What if she can’t “prove” that he is hurting her? Must she then stay married to him until he does enough damage that she can take pictures of? What if he is raping her and he says it was consensual? The list of what if’s and how she could/could not prove it go on and on – and in the end, it is still blaming the victim and putting the burden on her, not the abuser.

8 lepidopteryx April 16, 2008 at 4:55 pm

And it’s not like I would have stayed in either situation if I couldn’t have gotten a divorce. I still would have moved out, still would have done what I had to do to protect myself and my daughter.

9 Lab Kat April 16, 2008 at 5:20 pm

— Scafidi’s calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes. –

Because it could never be assumed that men who get women pregnant then duck out of their responsibilities – like paying child support or see their children – or those who leave their wives for a younger model/midlife crisis or routinely abuse their families would responsible for any of those problems.

10 roses April 16, 2008 at 9:28 pm

You know, I bet someone could use those exact assumptions to show that abortion saves the government billions of dollars a year because many of the women who choose abortion would otherwise end up poor single mothers. I wonder if that would convince these people to support legal abortion? (Ha… as if).

11 Thealogian April 17, 2008 at 10:17 am

60% of child support cases are in deficit–aka, men are not paying their child support and its easy to duck out of child supporting by simply moving to another state, yet of course, this “study” focuses once again on “what’s wrong with women.” Just the other day I re-read “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf and in it, she mentions going to the British Library and looking up “male” and “female” in the catalogue and of course, “female” is the most studied of the genders–always trying to figure out what’s wrong with us!!!

This unquestioning of the questions at the basis of such studies is sooooo ridiculous and such bad practice for researchers.

It is my contention that every adult should be able to make a living wage, eat healthfully, and live in safe homes/communities. It is my contention that each individual adult or human has the right to universal healthcare and reasonable prices for prescription drugs whose development was underwritten by tax dollars. It is my contention that children have the fundamental rights to education and child-care, separately considered from the rights of parents. If instead of talking about parents or mothers or fathers when discussing day-care/childcare, we should recognize that when a child is born in our country, he/she is a citizen and has certain rights–healthcare, daycare, education are all part of those rights and in return, when they are productive workers, they can aid future children and provide for the elderly through their social security/income taxes.

If we had all of these things in mind, then divorce and how parents parent would be less of an issue in terms of social impact and instead matters of privacy. Forcing women into servitude is wrong: because please, what these reconsidered divorce statutes would result in is the abolition of a woman’s right to divorce, since 2/3 of divorces are initiated by women and somehow, rich white men who want to “trade up” would be allowed to via some sort of “she got fat” clause in the divorce laws.

They are asking the wrong questions!

Though I will say, in terms of partnership, it is hard to imagine entering into motherhood without some sort of partnership–but that’s me on the outside looking in. One anthropology teacher I had, who was going through a divorce, said to me “all mothers are single mothers”– the lucky ones have supporting spouses (male/female) or support networks (extended families or urban alt families) that can help out, but “all mothers are single mothers” echoes still and though I see my brother taking on about 40% of the childcare (which is a hell of a lot better than many hetero structures), becoming a mother is all the more daunting in this world of shifting security. Remember Kate and Alley? I’ve often wondered why more women who are heterosexual don’t form similar partnerships?

12 Rachel April 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm

If it gives you any faith in the american people, the only reason the pope is going on this promotional tour in US now is because, like, no one cares what he says anymore.

13 Daisy April 17, 2008 at 10:16 pm

From the perspective of a teacher, a mandated reporter of abuse, I don’t see single parents as costing society $$. I see the folks making policy that won’t allow these kids the books they need to learn to read as the ones costing society big $$. Of course, when the kids hit the job market without skills, it’ll be my fault.

14 Melissa April 18, 2008 at 12:44 pm

One anthropology teacher I had, who was going through a divorce, said to me “all mothers are single mothers”– the lucky ones have supporting spouses (male/female) or support networks (extended families or urban alt families) that can help out, but “all mothers are single mothers” echoes…

Wow – that really simply makes sense. I have friends that have children and husbands, but they often feel like single mothers. One friend has a husband that works the oil fields and is gone A LOT, she very often says, “If I wanted to be a single mother, i wouldn’t have gotten married when I got knocked-up!”

And I have noticed that there are a lot of similarities between my single-parent woes and their married-parent woes, they are a lot alike….

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