Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Incentivar o casamento?

No Reino Unido, os Conservadores estão a propor alterações ao sistema fiscal (parece-me) para favorecer o casamento. Em Portugal por vezes também se fala disso. Será que faz sentido?

When divorce is the wiser option, por Johan Hari:

At first glance, the sociological evidence shows that the kids of broken homes or single parents are more likely to drop out of school, slip into crime, and become drug addicts than children whose parents stay together. So the solution is, to Cameron, obvious: keep parents together using the tax code and these problems will slowly be reduced. Stop Jimmy's mum and dad splitting, and Jimmy will be more likely to stay in school, on the right side of the law, and off drugs.

A major study has just shown that this is based on a simple misunderstanding of the evidence. Professor Kelly Musick and Dr Ann Meier of Cornell University have carried out a study[1] of children whose parents stay together for the sake of the kids. We all know some: parents who can't stand each other, but have made a hard-headed decision to stay together nonetheless. They are exactly the kind of people who would be glued back together by Cameron's policies if they succeeded in their goal.

It turns out their children do worse than any other group – including those of divorcees or single mums. If you are raised by arguing parents who stayed together only for you, then you are 33 per cent more likely to become a binge-drinking teen than if you have a single parent, for example. Having parents locked in live-in combat damages children more than having separated parents, or just one single parent – and the damage lasts well into adulthood. The offspring are more likely to have bad marriages themselves, and more likely to have children at a very young age.

It makes sense. Would Jimmy rather have a happy mum and dad who live apart, or depressed, stressed, angry parents sharing a bed?

So Cameron's first glance at the figures turns out, then, to be wrong. He was comparing divorcees and single parents to happy two-parent families who want to stick together. But happy two-parent families who want to stick together are not what his policy would create. If he had an effect at all, he would be tying together miserable couples who would otherwise have split. To assume you would get the same sociological outcomes from them is an Enron-style accounting error.

In fact, this new study shows that Cameron's policy would actually unwittingly harm children. It's not his intention, but we would have more children in the worst-performing category of all, and so in the long term increase the very social dysfunctions – like drug addiction and crime – that the policy was designed to erode.

[1] Penso que o tal estudo seja este [pdf].

1 comment:

Diogo said...

Devem existir vários estudos a chegar a conclusões opostas. Há uns 50 anos atrás haviam as “donas de casa”, mulheres que não trabalhavam fora e não tinham dinheiro para quebrar um casamento odioso (e se o fizessem, eram consideradas umas putéfias).

Mas a separação dos pais, para as crianças é um choque. Não é fácil...