The Magazine

The Anti-Dowry

A complaint about our student loan system.

Dec 16, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 14 • By ALLAN CARLSON
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--Why create an incentive for more births? Other existing federal policy measures, such as the income tax and the Social Security system, also create incentives hostile to marriage and child-rearing. This modest countermeasure to yet another anti-family policy would encourage the birth of new human life only within relatively responsible married-couple homes. Moreover, the average American life, circa 2002, generates $1,700,000 in economic gain over the course of its existence (for the children of college graduates, double that). Even if we deduct half of that, $850,000--an extremely high estimate--to cover the cost of each person's public education and possible public care, the net gain is clear. A modest federal investment of $10,000 in parental debt relief at the start of a new life would--for a change--be a good public investment.

--Won't the Supreme Court declare this measure unconstitutional? Perhaps. Given the lack of principle guiding the Court in recent decades, anything might be declared unconstitutional. In this case, though, a strong argument for the state's compelling interest in targeted debt relief can--and should--be made. The alternative is the accelerated shriveling of family life among America's young adults.

Allan Carlson is president of the Howard Center and Distinguished Fellow in Family Policy Studies at the Family Research Council.