July 20, 2011

Marriage does not influence educational performance


by Jan Harris

Placing his faith in strong families as key to mending ‘broken Britain’, David Cameron promised, before the election, to offer tax breaks to married couples.

He hoped that this would encourage people to marry, redressing the balance of a benefits system which makes it more beneficial for people to cohabit.

However, the basis for this plan has been called into question by research that suggests having married parents offers little or no emotional or education benefit to children.

According to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, although children with married parents perform better at school than children whose parents cohabit, this is because married parents are likely to be better educated and more affluent.

The study suggests that it is the parents’ educational background and financial stability that influences how a child develops, not marriage.

The IFS said: ‘We can find no strong evidence that marriage leads to better cognitive or social outcomes for children than cohabitation.

‘Policies aimed at encouraging parents to get married before they bear children thus require a rationale other than one based on the impact of marriage on child development.’

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