FROM THE IONA BLOG

A new study by the  British Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) indicates that children raised by cohabiting couples do no worse
on average than children raised by married couples once socio-economic
background is taken into account, and therefore there is no good reason
on the part of the State to encourage marriage.

To put it
another way, it is because the kind of people who get married tend to be
better educated that the children of married parents usually do well
because the education of the parents rubs off on the children.

But
the study completely overlooks the fact that cohabitation is far less
stable than marriage and therefore is a much surer path into single
parenthood. Decades of rigorous social science studies show that
children raised by single parents on average, do not fare as well as
children raised by two parents. Even Barack Obama, who was raised by a
single mother (plus his grandparents) acknowledges this.

Figures
from the British Millennium Cohort Study (BMCS) show that cohabiting
parents are two and a half times as likely to have broken up by the time
their children are five compared with married parents.

Furthermore,
even marriages that end in divorce tend to last longer than the average
cohabiting relationship. The average length in Britain of a marriage
that ends in divorce is 11.5 years compared with just two years for a
live-in relationship.

The scanty Irish data on the subject
suggests that only a quarter of cohabiting couples are still cohabiting
after seven years. The result have either broken up or married.

What
the data highlighted by the IFS really shows is the extent to which the
culture of marriage has collapsed in many disadvantaged areas, the very
areas that need the stability of marriage more than any other.

The Iona blog is part of the Iona Institute for Religion and Society, and Irish think tank.