On April 15th a major new study was released documenting the enormous economic cost in America caused by the breakdown of families. The study is sponsored by the Institute for American Values, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, the Georgia Family Council and Families Northwest. Thor Tolo took the occasion to speak with the President of Families Northwest Jeff Kemp.
Thor Tolo: This is a stunning study: [taxpayers have spent] over a trillion dollars in the last decade for unwed child bearing and divorce. This is far more sobering than I think even the experts had imagined, is it not?
Jeff Kemp: Yes, it is. We didn’t do the study just to be informed about how much money it’s costing every taxpayer in America. We did it to bring attention to something that should have our attention already. And that is that kids’ lives are being damaged, men’s and women’s lives are being damaged and the fabric of our culture is being damaged. We’re losing the commitment to prepare for marriages, commit to marriages, honor it culturally and prevent the hardship of divorce and kids being born out of wedlock.
When we talk about … more money in the last five years than has been spent on the Iraq war, it is something that we hope gains a lot of attention, but also drives compassion to change the future.
Tolo: As President of Families Northwest you have actually taken it a step or two further. You have said that this crisis is also hazardous to our health … This study is breathtaking in its exhaustive research.
Kemp: It is huge. It’s the first time the economic impact of family fragmentation has ever been assessed and here’s what happened: Families Northwest joined three other groups, The Institute for American Values primarily among them. They did the academic research and tested how much poverty is caused by divorce and how much poverty is caused by children being born and raised without their married parents. Once they assessed that poverty, they looked at the programs that government operates to try to alleviate the symptoms of that poverty as well as the tax revenue from these families and kids. This is a very, very cautious and low estimate of the expenses—they could be much higher.
In Washington State taxpayers spend $711, 000,000 every year [as a result of fragmented families]. We could employ 15,000 public school teachers for the price of what it is costing us in fragmenting families year after year after year.