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Marriage offers little benefit to children, says Institute for Fiscal Studies

Tax breaks for married couples planned for introduction later this year will only be symbolic as marriage offers no benefits to children, research organisation the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has claimed.

The educational level and wealth of a child’s parents is much more important to a child’s wellbeing than whether his or her parents are married, the IFS says. Previous research suggesting that children whose parents are married do better merely indicates that couples who are better educated and more affluent are more likely to marry, the organisation believes.

Claire Crawford is director of education and skills at the IFS. She told the Telegraph:

“I imagine that [the tax breaks] are of symbolic value or interest to the government.

“They want to signal that that is that type of family that they prefer or would like people to raise their children in.”

The tax breaks, when they arrive, are unlikely to be large enough to encourage many couples to marry, she added.

“Evidence, which is not ours, suggests that even sometimes very large incentives might only encourage a small number of people to get married. The figures I’ve seen talked about are in the order of £150 a year, which I can’t imagine given the cost of actually getting married would be a massive incentive. Our evidence suggests that even if it did encourage people to get married, it wouldn’t necessarily have a dramatic effect on children’s outcomes.”

But High Court judge and marriage campaigner Sir Paul Coleridge said the IFS were wrong and had failed to recognise the real benefits of marriage.

“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. 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.”

Sir Paul Coleridge is founder and chairman of the Marriage Foundation.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Luke says:

    I think the truth is for educated and affluent couples it has no effect.

    Where I think marriage helps children is it keeps relatively unhappy couples together in a survivable degree of misery that would otherwise separate.

    Now, you might think that it would be better for couples to separate when they are unhappy – and it is for THEM – but it seems to me rubbing along relatively unhappily with both parents in the household is much better for kids than bitter financial and custody fights and one parent hardly ever seeing them.

    Sad, but my experience within my relatives suggests this is true.

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