Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court judge who started the Marriage Foundation, argues that the decline of marriage has contributed to the doubling of family breakdown since the 1980s.
Married couples will be given tax breaks worth up to £150 each under plans that will become law by the end of the year. Photo: ALAMY
I am afraid IFS have completely misconstrued their own evidence and missed the point. The case for marriage has never rested on whether married couples make better parents than unmarried couples.
The finding that stable couples tend, whether married or not, to do equally well is a non-finding and non contentious. What really matters is whether couples stay together as a couple. And it is here that we say IFS have got it so wrong.
In their stability studies, IFS show that background factors, such as education and income, account for 42 percent of the stability gap between married and cohabiting couples.
The remaining 58 percent of the gap is mostly down to relational issues, such as whether the birth was planned, and the quality of the relationship. IFS claim, without foundation, that these factors have little or nothing to do with marriage.
However a growing body of research into how couples commit shows that both cohabitation and marriage have potentially causal elements.
Moving in together itself adds a “constraint” or “inertia” that can makes it harder to leave a fragile relationship in the short term. Marriage involves a major decision about the future as a couple that brings clarity and removes ambiguity, in much the same way as planning to have a baby.
But the biggest flaw in their argument involves the big picture. If we look at trends since the 1980s, family breakdown has doubled. But education and income have not collapsed. On the contrary they have improved.
So unless couples have somehow become less capable of holding together a relationship, the one big social change that could possibly account for this huge increase in instability is the trend away from relatively stable marriage and towards relatively unstable cohabitation.
Of course marriage is not a panacea; not every marriage lasts, but a married couple have statistically a far greater chance of remaining intact than a cohabiting couple. Our previous research has shown that 93 percent of couples who remain together until their children are in their mid-teens are married.
In other words if a couple is still together during the crucial teenage years of their children they are overwhelmingly likely to be married. And Just 18 percent of all couples with children aged 0-15 years old are still together but unmarried.
Last month, the Prime Minister agreed to include legislation to introduce a transferable tax allowance in the Autumn Statement, which would come into effect 2014-2015. The law would allow one spouse, who cares for the children, to transfer their personal tax allowance to their partner.
The Marriage Foundation welcomed the move because it makes obvious sense for The government to support marriage. Parents who split up are disproportionally likely to need state support, care or intervention.
This is partly because lone parents have to cope with fewer resources of time and money, and partly because splitting up can involve considerable family dysfunction.
The bill to the taxpayer for picking up the pieces is a massive £46 billion a year. That’s the same as the same as the entire defence budget for 2014.
My experience of family breakdown sitting in the family courts over 40 years entirely supports the statistics and it is this which has driven me and others to establish the Marriage Foundation.
The case for the importance of marriage can must be clearly advocated and supported by the best research and so that reports like those from IFS do not become accepted without challenge and proper analysis.
“Stability” is the name of the game and comparatively speaking that means marriage.
SOURCE: The Telegraph