Last month, I visited the University of Kentucky and gave a speech entitled, "A skeptical Look at Domestic Partner Benefits." That speech was well-received by many in the community, and may have even played some role in the ensuing debate in the state legislature.
However, the article in the student newspaper was not very well-informed. I have my doubts as to whether the author even attended the lecture, since she did not seem to know what time of day it was held. So I wrote a reply to the editor of the Kentucky Kernel (no, I'm not making this up: that is the name of the student newspaper.) But they have not published it as far as I know. So, to set the record straight, I am publishing the letter here.
To the editor,
I write in response to the February 15, 2007 article entitled, "Legislators, speaker 'skeptical' of benefits.” As the “speaker,” I consider myself qualified to know what I said and didn’t say. For benefit of anyone who was unable to attend the lecture, I have posted the entire talk, complete with footnotes, on my website:
People can decide for themselves whether I “just talked about what I felt” or whether my factual claims have empirical support.
As for the questions from the audience, several students seemed to want to minimize the importance of the research on cohabitation. So let me reiterate: years of research on cohabitation among opposite sex couples has shown convincingly that cohabitation is not equivalent to marriage and is in fact, inferior to marriage. Domestic violence, including child abuse, is more common, and relationship satisfaction is lower among cohabitors than among married couples. In response to one question, I agreed that these effects are stronger among people with lower levels of education and earnings, but the independent effect of cohabitation persists even after taking account of income and education.
Perhaps the law students in the audience believe that as educated people of relatively high income, the impact of cohabitation will be negligible in their own experience. Maybe you think you’ll be able to dodge the statistical bullet. But the University’s plan would subsidize not only cohabiting couples among the faculty, but among the clerks and cooks and custodians of the University.
There is nothing “progressive” or “tolerant” about a policy that provides ideological gratification to the rich while harming the poor. Encouraging opposite sex cohabitation, a lifestyle known to be destructive, is bad public policy. The taxpayers of Kentucky should decline to pay for the University’s domestic partners proposal.
Jennifer Roback Morse