One of Jubilee Centre's researchers is at the launch of Marriage Week today in the House of Commons, where the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith is defending the idea of state support for marriage and criticising the political establishment for not defending marriage.
LBC's Petrie Hosken just interviewed me on the subject, contending that surely married people should not be granted any additional beenfits over those who make a similar long-term commitment to each other but instead choose to live together for twenty years. As I pointed out, however, people who cohabit have not made 'a similar long-term commitment to each other.' In fact, as I reminded her colleague Nick Ferrari on Friday, cohabitation is a very unstable form of relationship and, although a very small minority might stick together, the average lasts less than two years (23 months) and less than one in five lasts more than five years. Yes, some marriages sadly end in divorce. However, half of all cohabiting couples who have children will separate by the time the child is five years old, compared with less than one out of fifteen married couples who have children, and just one in fifteen children born to cohabiting parents will still be living with both parents by the time they are 16 years old, compared with three out of four children born to married parents.
The facts are that the majority of young people still say that they aspire to getting married one day and, while it might be wrong for the government 'to get involved in our relationships', it is right for them to create the conditions that promote our individual and collective welfare. When it comes to marriage, the research is increasingly clear: married adults have made greater economic gains over the past four decades than unmarried adults (Fry & Cohn, 2010), and on average, married people live up to five years longer (Kaplan & Kronick, 2006), are happier and healthier (Horwitz, White & Howell-White, 1996), and even enjoy greater sexual satisfaction more often (Christopher & Sprecher, 2000). Married people are far less likely to suffer psychological illness (Lamb, Lee & Demaris, 2003) and marriage remains one of the strongest predictors of happiness (Glenn & Weaver, 1979). The same benefits are not found among cohabiting couples, it is specifically a 'Marriage Effect'.
As I concluded: 'Marriage wins hands down.'