Common Law explores impact of tying benefits to marriage

Being married unlocks many financial benefits, but it’s time those benefits were decoupled from an institution that’s rapidly declining among low-income Americans, says Professor Naomi Cahn in the latest episode of “Common Law,” a podcast by ‘University of Virginia. Law School.

“We need to make these benefits available to individuals rather than to individuals in a marital couple,” Cahn says in the episode. “And that’s becoming increasingly important not just because the workplace is changing [in offering benefits]but also because marriage itself is changing.

Excluding college graduates, less than half of American women between the ages of 25 and 40 are married today; in 1950, 78% of households were made up of married couples, but women with higher education were less likely than other women to be married. Marriage is increasingly a marker of success for upper-class families, rather than a stepping stone to security for all families. About 40% of all children are born out of wedlock, of which about half are to cohabiting couples.

Cahn, who is director of the law school‘s Family Law Center, recently wrote an article about the need to rethink how benefits — including more than a thousand in federal laws alone — are tied to marriage. . “Decouplingwritten with June Carbone, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, is forthcoming in the Arizona State Law Journal. Cahn is co-author of family law and trusts and estates casebooks, and has written numerous articles exploring the intersections between family law, trusts and estates and feminist theory, as well as essays on the links between gender and international law. .

“In the past, the family wage [supporting a whole family] was available to someone who didn’t have a college education,” Cahn says. “Today there is a premium for a college degree in terms of work, income and also access to a lot of the benefits that would support work-life balance. Thus, the people most likely to have access to, for example, paid leave are the highest paid people. And so many working-class couples don’t have access to paid vacations. This is one way in which decoupling could help them – if there is, for example, paid leave for care or childbirth.

On the show, Cahn traces the evolution of marriage and the workplace over the past few decades, and how trends — including a declining marriage rate and employers offering fewer benefits — are disproportionately hurting women. Low-income Americans, although the possibility of getting married has widened. to more people, including same-sex couples, over time.

Cahn adds: “Long live the institution of marriage; it may not be “long live the institution of marriage” as the basis for a series of over a thousand federal and many state benefits.

Hosted by Dean Risa Goluboff and Associate Dean Leslie Kendrick 2006, the show’s third season focuses on “Law and Equity”.

While the themes of the first two seasons were temporal – the first focused on “The Future of Law” and the second on “When the Law Changed the World” – this season examines a variety of legal issues through time, wondering what fairness means and examining how it interacts with the law.

“Common Law” is available at Apple podcast, embroiderer, Youtube, Spotify and other popular places where you can listen to podcasts. The show is produced by Emily Richardson-Lorente.

You can watch the show on the website or Twitter at @CommonLawUVA.

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