Economist Dr. Aguirre: Healthy Marriages are Good for the Economy

April 1, 2011

Dr. Sophia Aguirre, an associate professor of economics at the Catholic University of America, delivered a lecture entitled “Freedom for All: An Integral Approach to Economic Development” on March 30 to students and faculty of Christendom College.

1“When I was being trained as an economist, it was all about math,” Aguirre said. “Now we need to look at progress in quality of life, not just economic development.”

Aguirre, who has testified in front of Congress and the U.N., explained that the economy can not be measured only by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation, and unemployment rates in a nation. The quality of life of its citizens must be taken into account—their education, health, life expectancy, and potential.

“Those countries that have the highest GDP have the highest suicide rate,” she noted. “So there is something wrong there. It is not just about the GDP anymore.”

Human capital is a key factor in economics. If a nation’s people are not well, then they do not work well and can drain a nation’s recourses, she said.

“In the United States we spend close to $1.3 trillion a year on the break down of the family,” she said. “This is rehab, prisons, reformatories—and 25% of that is the Social Security of those who have no one to claim them—to me, that reflects the break down of the family.”

Aquirre presented empirical data which showed that healthy marriages and families created psychologically and physically healthy children. Families with both biological parents that sat down to eat regularly and converse with their children had a higher level of income. The children also did well in school and avoided substance abuse.

When families did not sit down to eat together or children were being raised in single parent homes, the income level dropped and the likelihood of children doing drugs or performing poorly in school increased dramatically.

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Students chat with Dr. Aguirre following her lecture.

“Clearly legislation that supports healthy marriages and stable families are key. This is not a luxury good or option for sustainable growth.  When we talk about the elimination of poverty for children, we better start looking seriously at family structure,” she said. “We need a new approach to economic development that works a lot with institutions, that supports the family, and that knows how to measure correctly.”

This event, funded by the Koch Foundation, was cosponsored by Christendom College's Cincinnatus League, a student forum for conservative political philosophy. The League offers students a conservative book club and lecture series, helping students apply the philosophical foundation they have received at Christendom to problems in contemporary education and politics.

This talk can be downloaded at Christendom on iTunes U.  Other presentations and current research by Aguirre can be found at her website: faculty.cua.edu/aguirre.

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