Marriage and Poverty: Causation Sorted

You, over there! Yes, you! Get this confusion about marriage and poverty sorted!

Marriage is not bad. In fact, all things considered, marriage is very good for human happiness. Let's all be glad it exists as an institution. But promoting it through government policies might turn out to be a terrible idea nonetheless, increasing misery and poverty.

“Marriage promotion” is a destructive cargo cult

None of this is to say marriage is bad! On the contrary, despite my lefty hippie enthusiasm for transgressive goat sex and stuff, I think in the context of the actually existing society, the prevalence of durable marriages is a reflection of social health. Marriage is part of how we organize a good life when a good life is on offer, just like airports with people guiding planes on the tarmac are part of how Pacific Islanders might organize trade for valuable cargo. But before the odd dances on the tarmac must come the production of goods and services for trade, or at least some kind of arrangement with the people in faraway places who control the airplanes. Before you get to smiling families, you have to create the material circumstances that render marriage on average a good deal. For poor women in particular, it very often is no longer a good deal.