Reporter's Notebook

Why Should Married People Get Extra Support?
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Readers debate the question and related ones. Join them via

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Why Aren't There Gifts for Being Single?

A reader, Brandon, takes the bait from this one, who said that “single people are basically freeloaders”:

Your reader’s comment and your call for responses made me actually laugh out loud, so nice work there. As to his point: I’m 32 and have never been married. I’ve been engaged, but I walked away after realizing marriage and children with my partner at the time would have been a terrible decision for both of us.

In my experience, two groups of people generally get married young or at all (this is more than a binary comparison, but for the sake of this email, two choices makes the point): 1. People who have met the right partner and should get married, and 2. People who need to get married because other people are doing it. Those in group 1 don’t have the insecurities of those in group 2, and rarely if ever make such freeloader comments.

To this reader, on behalf of the single people who financed his wedding, baby shower, housewarming, and—pick an event for married people that has no single people equivalent—you’re welcome. (And yes, this idea came from Sex & the City.)

That linked video is unembeddable, but here’s the money quote:

I did a little mental addition, and over the years I have bought Kiera an engagement gift, a wedding gift, the trip to Maine for the wedding, three baby gifts—in toto, I have spent over $2300 celebrating her choices. […] And if I don’t ever get married, or have a baby, what—I get bupkis?

A reader, Yvonne, just came across our discussion thread that questions why married couples should get more support than single people, including legal things like tax breaks and cultural things like wedding gifts:

This is something that has bothered me for the past few years and I’ve started to argue with organizations over it. For example, some museum memberships have an individual rate and a family rate. When the family rate covers two adults and children, why is the price not at least the cost of two individuals? It should at least cost 2.5 X the individual rate. Belonging to some organizations costs less per person if you are a couple. Why? Couples already save on rent, electricity, even phone plans.

When I talk to these organizations (and some I have quit belonging to) I ask, “Why do you discriminate against single people?” They will often say they don't, but I insist, “Yes you do, so why?”

I also don’t understand when people are asked how long they’ve been together they say “we’ve been married ten years” when they were together three years before that. Do those three initial years not count?I am in a long-term relationship (six or seven years) with someone I don’t want to live with and I don’t want to marry. I like living alone. I don’t think I should be penalized for that choice.

I do agree that there should be subsidies for children. If a married couple has kids, fine, give a tax break to them. But just the simple act of being married does not deserve any tax savings.

Another reader, Simon, thinks of the children less begrudgingly than Yvonne does:

To find out, fill out this really quick interactive form created by FiveThirtyEight’s Ritchie King for last year’s tax season. A reader just flagged it for our debate over whether married people should get more support than single people, adding: “Not all people benefit from being married; depending on your circumstances, you will actually pay more taxes”—specifically, an estimated 38 percent of couples, according to economists James Alm and J. Sebastian Leguizamon.