Interesting article today about how expensive divorce and marriage breakdown is in Aotearoa/New Zealand – apparently to the tune of $1 billion taxpayer dollars per year.
The report was written by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) and commissioned by Family First.
According to the Executive Summary:
While divorce may on occasion help avoid negative family outcomes (such as in high conflict situations), international research suggests that private costs of divorce and unmarried childbearing include increased risks of poverty, mental illness, infant mortality, physical illness, juvenile delinquency and adult criminality, sexual abuse and other forms of family violence, economic hardship, substance abuse, and educational failure.
The report recommends supports to strengthen marriage and reduce family breakdown, and programmes to reduce unwed pregnancies among teen mothers.
I guess that means wed teenage mothers have no negative outcomes, the wedding somehow cancelling out the teenagedom?
There are other issues here. “International research” concluding the various negative outcomes listed is at best contested and at worst purely ideological. Sexual abuse and family violence sadly happen in families whether or not people are married – and often divorce is how this abuse stops – not how it begins. The costs of family violence to the New Zealand economy – in terms of police call-outs, health services, mental health services, education programmes for offenders and those victimised, housing, child protection services, justice sector costs (court-time, prisons), lost ability to work etc etc etc – were estimated at $1.2 billion in 1994.
But frankly there are issues here too with those commissioning the research, and those conducting it.
NZIER is a research organisation with particular links. Heavily involved in campaigning against action on carbon emissions, they wrote a report, described as independent though funded by heavy emitters such as Solid Energy, which predicted a number of poor economic outcomes from emissions trading.
Labour MP Pete Hodgson said in parliament back in 2003:
I regret to advise that I have seen a pattern with New Zealand Institute of Economic Research reports, in that they tend to have some bearing on those who pay for them.
All of which makes me wonder how much Family First were charged to produce a report which tells us how much divorce and family breakdown cost us. After all, their website welcomes us with:
Hi, I’m Bob McCoskrie
Are you concerned about rising family breakdown and the decline in standards and responsibility? I know I am.
You get what you pay for these days it seems. It’s a shame – these issues deserve a less partisan approach – and one where the desired outcome has not been pre-determined.
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