It is impossible to put a price tag on all the benefits that come from stable, intact families.
One of the most tangible benefits of a family headed by married parents is that it is among the best ways to keep children out of poverty.
Of course, there are some two-parent families who are poor, but families headed by a single parent are far more likely to live in poverty.
In Tennessee, for instance, Census Bureau data from 2006-2008 showed that in a family with married parents, a child had only a 7.5 percent chance of living in poverty. By comparison, a child had a 43.1 percent chance of being in poverty if he or she was in a single-parent, female-headed family.
In Georgia, a child in a single-parent, female-headed family had a greater than 37 percent chance of being in poverty, compared with only a 6.1 percent chance for a child in a family headed by married parents.
Those numbers prompted The Heritage Foundation to label marriage "America's No. 1 weapon against childhood poverty."
And so with the benefits of stable families being so obvious, it is deeply discouraging to see our country pass an alarming threshold: Today, a majority of the women under 30 who have children are doing so without benefit of wedlock.
"The shift is affecting children's lives," The New York Times reported. "Researchers have consistently found that American children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering from emotional and behavioral problems."
While men and women are clearly responsible when they act in ways that bring children into difficult circumstances, it surely does not help that movies and TV shows often depict single motherhood as a sensible option. It's not "sensible" for the child. It is a burden he will live with all his life, and all too often that burden will have painful consequences.
Unmarried adults are well advised to think not only about what they want but about what is best for the children whom their irresponsible actions may create.