Monday, March 05, 2007

"Assortative Mating"

Digby pointed to this article about current trends in American marriage, including "assortative mating:"

As marriage with children becomes an exception rather than the norm, social scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the college-educated and the affluent. The working class and the poor, meanwhile, increasingly steer away from marriage, while living together and bearing children out of wedlock.

This is bad, right? Our society generally believes that marriage is a good institution because it contributes to personal and societal stability and offers a good environment in which to raise children. If you're a Republican "Family Values" type, you go even farther. You think marriage is vital to not just personal and societal stability, but also to moral stability and that marriage is the only acceptable environment in which to raise children.

If you take the Republicans at their word (and for God's sake, don't try this in real life, people) you'd assume that our Republican-run government of the last six years would have constructed all sorts of incentives to marry in addition to a favorable income tax provision.

You would be wrong.

Today I read about this woman, who would very much like to marry, but who feels she cannot.
Ms. Readling is engaged to be married in June, to another real estate agent. But she said she may postpone the wedding because she would not want her husband to be legally responsible for her medical bills.

“I am scared to get married because I don’t have insurance,” Ms. Readling said. “If I have to go to the hospital and I can’t pay my hospital bills, what happens? Do they go after him? Can they take your home?”
Well, yes, Ms. Reading. "They" can (and they will):
To collect unpaid medical bills, health care providers often obtain judgments against a patient’s spouse, as well as the patient, and file liens against their homes. Ms. Readling says she does not own a house, but her fiancĂ© does.

Ms. Reading isn't one of the working class or poor people discussed in the WaPo article. She earns $60,000 a year. I don't even want to get into how utterly unjust, frightening, and just plain screwed up it is for her to be unable to afford health insurance. The point is that there is a vicious cycle at work here. If you lose your health insurance, your financial (in addition to your physical) health is subject to enormous risk. Then, if you are lucky enough to find a partner who might bring some stability to your insurance situation (i.e., you could be added to his or her plan) -- you risk ruining their financial health, too. That is what's known as a disincentive, Mr. "MBA President."

The next time some Republican beats their chest about "family values," tell them about Ms. Reading.

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