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Married couples will be a minority in little more than a generation, warns new report

Former Conservative Children’s Minister tells David Cameron to get family policy “back on track”

Families headed by married couples will be in a minority by 2050, according to a new report from a leading think-tank critical of the Government’s failure to do more to tackle family breakdown.

The report also finds that marriage is increasingly the preserve of the middle and upper classes.

Among new parents on low income, only about 50 per cent are married. This rises to nearly 80 per cent for couples on £21,000 to £31,000 a year and to nearly 90 per cent for those earning over £50,000 a year.

The report from the Centre for Social Justice concedes that there have been some “promising” moves by Ministers to promote family stability, such as the publication of their Social Justice Strategy and the release of public money to provide relationship support. But overall the CSJ is deeply dismayed by the lack of progress since the Coalition was formed in 2010, warning that official efforts to promote stable families are “dwarfed by the scale and cost of family breakdown”.

The report says: “This Government’s lack of a clear and coherent strategy to strengthen UK families not only contrasts starkly with their early and sustained action to reform welfare and education but also threatens to undermine gains in these other vital policy areas.

“The Social Justice Strategy is a welcome sign of progress in its recognition of family breakdown as a key driver of poverty, but strong leadership is required to tackle this issue at a high level in Government. “A Department for Families, led by someone who has the vision and ambition to address family breakdown, would greatly bolster current efforts to strengthen families, especially in our poorest communities, which is so essential for the social recovery that must accompany economic growth.”

The report will be launched on Monday October 8 at a CSJ fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. Tim Loughton, until recently Minister for Children, will endorse the report and echo its criticism of the Government’s record on families to date. (The CSJ fringe meeting on family and children’s policy is in the Cullinan room at the Copthorne Hotel, Birmingham at 5-30 pm on Monday, October 8).

Mr Loughton will tell the CSJ fringe meeting that the Government needs to get family policy back on track and to rediscover its commitment to family stability. The former Children’s Minister will say: “Family matters to most people. Before the election David Cameron said it was in his DNA. At its extreme the breakdown of family contributes to the chaos of the herd instinct and lawlessness that we saw in last summer’s riots. “On an everyday basis family breakdown costs society £44billion a year so it is vital that we heed the CSJ’s shocking revelation that 48 per cent of all children will see the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.

“The CSJ have done more than most to highlight the benefits of stable families for stronger economic, health and education outcomes. “Yet last year, the word family did not even feature in David Cameron’s conference speech and now we have a single ‘Families Minister’ in name only.

“The Government urgently needs to gets a coordinated family policy back on track and rediscover its DNA. We fail to do so at our peril, socially and economically.” The CSJ study draws on new data from the 2011 census and the Millennium Cohort Study to chart the decline of the married family. The proportion of families headed by a married couple has dropped by 5 per cent over the last decade while there has been a 3 per cent rise in cohabiting couple families and a 2 per cent rise in lone parent families. The rise in cohabitation is actually fuelling lone parenthood because cohabiting couples with children are far less stable than those who are married.

The report calculates that on current trends, by 2031 only 57 per cent of families will be headed by married couples. By 2047, 35 years from now, families headed by a married couple would be a minority – 49.5 per cent of all families.

The report cites opinion polling carried out for the CSJ by YouGov to demonstrate strong public support for a renewed effort to reverse the rising tide of family breakdown, estimated to cost the taxpayer £44 billion a year and to damage children’s educational, physical and economic prospects.

The polls show that 83 per cent of people think family breakdown is a serious problem and 75 per cent believe that stabilising the country’s most troubled families would help society as a whole. The CSJ renews its call for the introduction of a transferrable tax allowance for married couples as a way of promoting marriage, saying this would be far cheaper than raising personal tax thresholds, which favours richer families. It also urges the formation of a Government department for families led by a senior figure committed to tackling family breakdown, especially in the poorest parts of the country.

For media inquiries, please contact Nick Wood of Media Intelligence Partners Ltd on

07889 617003 / 0203 008 8146 or Andrew Collinson on 07592 979054 / 0203 008



The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is an independent think tank established in 2004 to put social justice at the heart of British politics. In 2007 the CSJ published its landmark report, Breakthrough Britain. This publication, which set out 190 evidence-based policy recommendations to tackle poverty in Britain, transformed the social policy and political landscape and was awarded Publication of the Year by Prospect Magazine in 2008. Since Breakthrough Britain the CSJ has published over 40 reports which have shaped government policy and influenced opposition parties. These have included the seminal papers Dying To Belong and Dynamic Benefits, which has led the Coalition Government’s welfare reforms.

Further to this, the CSJ manages an Alliance of over 250 of the most effective grass roots, poverty-fighting organisations.

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