Matthew Yglesias had a funny post recently about how the backlog of divorces, births and young people waiting to move out from the parents’ homes is holding back the economy. It’s true, strictly speaking. But no one really wants more divorces just to stimulate the economy, right? That would be as crazy as wanting more marriages just to stimulate the economy — which must be crazy, because it’s exactly what Brad Wilcox has advocated (hopefully just to see if his deep-pockets corporate sponsors are paying attention to what he does with their slush funds).
All that is why it was funny to see the Wilcoxian Elizabeth Marquardt take offense at the Yglesias piece. “Sure, America, get divorced and go shopping,” she huffed. “A divorced household means two refridgerators rather than one, and what could be better for the economy?” Of course, waste is consumption, and consumption is a good way to get out of a recession. As Yglesias put it:
There are millions of “missing” households in America that can appear—through childbirth, divorce, or moving out—very suddenly if people get a bit more in their pockets.
Put another way, all those divorces waiting to happen are really shovel-ready households, ready to be formed. But what kind of moral view of the family is that?
Seriously, I have to put my foot down on this. I don’t want either divorces or marriages just because one or the other stimulates more shopping — even if it means shopping for cool new beds:
That image is from a post by Mike Konczal, who believes the recession is reducing divorces. His data is a little old. I’ve done quite a bit on this issue, and my latest leaning is in the direction of the recession creating a backlog of divorces that may already be showing themselves, with an uptick in the number of couples reporting divorce in the 2010 American Community Survey and Google divorce searches trending upward.
When the economy improves — and more new households are formed, by people moving out, for better or for worse — the improvement will be good news, and the boom in broken marriages will be good or bad depending on whether they were good or bad divorces, not because they are good or bad for “the economy.”