Married couples will be a minority by 2050, warns CSJ report
Report calls for the establishment of a Department for Families
Families headed by married couples will be in a minority by 2050, according to a new report from the Centre for Social Justice.
The report - Forgotten Families? The vanishing agenda - also finds that marriage is increasingly the preserve of the middle and upper classes.
Among new parents on low income, only about 50 per cent are married. This rises to nearly 80 per cent for couples on £21,000 to £31,000 a year and to nearly 90 per cent for those earning over £50,000 a year.
The report concedes that there have been some "promising" moves by Ministers to promote family stability, such as the publication of their Social Justice Strategy and the release of public money to provide relationship support.
But overall the CSJ says that it is deeply dismayed by the lack of progress since the Coalition was formed in 2010, warning that official efforts to promote stable families are "dwarfed by the scale and cost of family breakdown".
The report says:
"This Government's lack of a clear and coherent strategy to strengthen UK families not only contrasts starkly with their early and sustained action to reform welfare and education but also threatens to undermine gains in these other vital policy areas.
"The Social Justice Strategy is a welcome sign of progress in its recognition of family breakdown as a key driver of poverty, but strong leadership is required to tackle this issue at a high level in Government.
"A Department for Families, led by someone who has the vision and ambition to address family breakdown, would greatly bolster current efforts to strengthen families, especially in our poorest communities, which is so essential for the social recovery that must accompany economic growth."
The CSJ study draws on new data from the 2011 census and the Millennium Cohort Study to chart the decline of the married family. The proportion of families headed by a married couple has dropped by 5 per cent over the last decade while there has been a 3 per cent rise in cohabiting couple families and a 2 per cent rise in lone parent families. The report says that the rise in cohabitation is actually fuelling lone parenthood because cohabiting couples with children are far less stable than those who are married.
The report calculates that on current trends, by 2031 only 57 per cent of families will be headed by married couples. By 2047, 35 years from now, families headed by a married couple would be a minority – 49.5 per cent of all families. The report cites opinion polling carried out for the CSJ by YouGov to demonstrate strong public support for a renewed effort to reverse the rising tide of family breakdown, estimated to cost the taxpayer £44 billion a year and to damage children's educational, physical and economic prospects. The polls show that 83 per cent of people think family breakdown is a serious problem and 75 per cent believe that stabilising the country's most troubled families would help society as a whole. The CSJ renews its call for the introduction of a transferrable tax allowance for married couples as a way of promoting marriage, saying this would be far cheaper than raising personal tax thresholds, which favours richer families. It also urges the formation of a Government department for families led by a senior figure committed to tackling family breakdown, especially in the poorest parts of the country.
The report can be downloaded here.