Cameron’s marriage policy ignores social trends

Today's Daily Mail details a row over the role of marriage. But David Cameron's tax break for couples ignores decades-long social trends.

Today’s Daily Mail details a row between School Secretary Ed Balls and David Cameron over the role of marriage with a front page headline of “Marriage: now it’s war”. The article follows speculation in recent days over whether the Conservatives would stick to their pledge of an expensive tax break for married couples.

The article outlines that:

“[David Cameron] dismissed speculation that the Conservatives might limit their long-standing commitment to support marriage to couples with children, or those on low incomes.”

As Left Foot Forward and others have pointed out, the policy would cost £4.9 billion and would give thirteen times the benefit to the highest earners as to people on lower incomes. The Mail suggest that the Conservatives would develop an unspecified but “less expensive tax break.”

But the policy also belies the changing nature of family structure in the UK. The chart below is taken from from a Gingerbread report called ‘Single parents, equal families’ which is due out next week. It takes data from the Office for National Statistics ‘Social Trends No. 39‘ and shows that the number of households headed by couples with dependent children has fallen from 35 per cent in 1971 to 21 per cent in 2008. The proportion of households with single parents has risen from 3 per cent to 7 per cent over the same period.

The Social Trends data shows that the greatest change is to the proportion of households without children which has risen from 45 per cent in 1971 to 69 per cent in 2008.

As Ed Straw, vice president of relationship support group Relate, wrote in the spring 2009 Fabian Review:

“The simple act of getting more of the unmarried to marry will not cause better parenting en masse and will not cause the outcomes for their children to improve. Life is just a little bit more complicated than that. Marriage signals stability, it does not create it.”

The Conservatives and their proxies are unable to point to evidence that a tax break would reverse this trend.

NB: Ed Straw is also my uncle.

12 Responses to “Cameron’s marriage policy ignores social trends”

  1. Hannah Mudge

    Rt @leftfootfwd Cameron's marriage policy misses the facts: the number of couples with children has fallen http://bit.ly/6dLw0h

  2. Maggy Tyger

    Cameron's marriage policy ignores social trends | Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/74YrBi

  3. Paul Waugh

    As marriage row heats up, Will Straw points out two-parent families are on the decline. http://bit.ly/5YJvFN

  4. Lynda Edwards

    Surely, the better thing would be to support organisations like Relate who work to sort out/save people’s marriages rather than encourage people to jump into already disastrous marriages if they have children. A new couple are then likely to want more children thus causing more of a problem when the children grow up requiring jobs which won’t be there.

  5. Span Ows

    “The Conservatives and their proxies are unable to point to evidence that a tax break would reverse this trend.”

    So let’s not bother then. Can you point to any evidence of any policy of any party would reverse this trend?

    “The Social Trends data shows that the greatest change is to the proportion of households without children which has risen from 45 per cent in 1971 to 69 per cent in 2008.”

    But isn’t this logical? If the number of single mothers are on the rise then presumably there’s a load of blokes (that in 1971 would have counted in the married couple stats or at least two people in the household with children) that are now counted in stats as households without children.

  6. Anon E Mouse

    Cameron’s marriage policy ignores social trends…. so what, who cares?

  7. Chris

    I’ll just use a report out next week to argue against this – wait a minute not possible for most of us.

    Surely political parties do things for reasons of belief rather than them being right – why else would Labour put up tax to 50p in the pound

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/tax/5602518/50p-tax-unfair-complex-and-damaging-to-economy-think-tank-says.html

    Now unfortunately I earn nowhere near this amount but I am worried that it will have a detrimental effect on all of us.

    The only reason it is being brought in is a bit of old fashioned bleed the rich policy from old labour. Tony Blair understands that this kind of policy not only turns off those with money but those who aspire, and these people provide jobs for all of us.

    So there is Labour’s non evidence based tax policy. It isn’t right but it plays to the core beliefs of those in the party.

  8. Kevin

    Nothing wrong with bleeding the rich and the French invented the gullitine for just that purpose. With regards the family it is largely the destruction of wage levels amongst the low & moderetely paid which introduces the instability. A loud blast about this in camerons ear may call his bluff on the subject? maybe? might be worth a try?

  9. Chris

    Kevin

    If we bleed the rich so much that they relocate elsewhere, they after all have the financial independence to do this, then we will lose corporation tax on their business, the VAT on what they spend, all associated jobs.

    Blair had it right with sensible taxation levels, and I support dynamic modelling to show what is best for society. So if taxing them 38p in the pound raises more taxes than 42p then we should do that. We should not be dogmatic about penalising wealth. If total gross tax revunue increases because it is not worthwhile avoiding taxes, or their is more incentive to earn, why should we penalise wealth creators. Wealth = Associated jobs.

  10. Kevin

    Chris we are in a post peak oil world. Where will the rich relocate? The past? There isn’t the time to adapt before the wheels come of this technological civlization. The Malthusian Die-off cometh. Game over, man. Game over.

    http://canada.theoildrum.com/node/4495

  11. Young and poor among losers of Conservative marriage policy | Left Foot Forward

    […] couples are projected to rise from 2.25 million in 2007 to 3.70 million in 2031. This blog has previously shown that the proportion of households with single parents has risen from 3 per cent in 1971 to 7 per […]

  12. Regressive impact of IDS’ marriage (+ kids) tax | Left Foot Forward

    […] be set to gain the most. As this blog has shown previously, the policy also flies in the face of social trends and would disadvantage young people. In 1991, 74 per cent of 30-44 year olds were married but the […]

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