As concerns over declining U.S. marriage rates regain the national spotlight, a Texas Republican has proposed a bill aiming to incentivize married couples to stay together.
Texas State House Rep. Bryan Slaton filed HB 2889, which would provide property tax relief to couples that get married, stay married and have or adopt children.
The proposed bill comes on the heels of new data showing a sharp decline in marriage rates across the U.S. Although marriage rates have dropped from the 1890s to the 1960s, since 1970 they have further declined and are now at record lows, according to a study from the National Center For Family & Marriage Research (NCFMR).
“The decline in marriages and stable families has been exceptionally saddening to see over the last several decades. This sharp decline has not only taken place in America, but nearly all of the developed world,” Slaton told Timcast in a written statement. “Pro-family policies like this have begun to turn the tide in nations like Hungary and Poland. My hope is that this bill will help reverse the falling marriage and birth rates. Families are the building blocks and backbone of society, and children are, quite literally, the future of Texas, the nation, and the world.”
Research also shows that women’s median age the first time they marry is now at the highest it’s been in more than 100 years. In addition to plummeting marriage rates, the U.S. birth rate is fallen to its lowest level since 1979.
According to analysis by the Brookings Institute, “U.S. fertility rates are likely to be considerably below replacement levels for the foreseeable future. This is driven by more than a decade of falling birth rates and declining births at all ages for multiple cohorts of women, not simply the aftermath of the pandemic-induced reduction in births.”
Under the proposed legislation, a couple who marries and stays married would receive a 10 percent property tax credit. A family of four or more biological or adopted children would receive a 40 percent tax credit, while families with 10 children would pay no property taxes at all.
Texas has the sixth highest effective real estate tax rate in the U.S., according to 2022 data from Wallethub. Shedding some of that financial burden would be a boon to people coping with the other economic stressors, including the rise in gas prices, and surging year-over-year inflation, which last year reached its highest level in 40 years.
Slaton told Timcast that the support for the bill has been “incredible,” with some calling it “innovative,” though he says it is a common sense plan inspired by a biblical worldview.
“We have God’s law, nature’s law, and man’s law. Those three should not be in disagreement,” he said. “People who support a biblical world are supporting this idea. People who do not have a biblical world view are taking issue. Children are the future, and we should be making it easier for children to be raised in families in a nurturing way, not harder.”
There are also well-documented benefits for children who grow up in two-parent households, including higher high school graduation rates, higher employment rates as adults, and a lower likelihood of social, emotional, and cognitive problems.
“Studies have consistently shown that children who grow up in a household with their mother and father, tend to fare much better than those who do not,” Slaton explained. “Having a higher marriage rate in Texas will help to mend the social fabric of our state, will lower the age dependency ratio, and lead to children, families, and communities that are much happier and healthier.”
He added, “Conservatives always like to sling around the slogan of ‘faith, family and freedom,’ but if [we] are going to take the ‘family’ part seriously, we need to start putting our money where our mouth is.”
If passed, the legislation would add to a list of other benefits married couples enjoy, including marital tax deduction on federal taxes, IRA benefits, health insurance benefits, and social security benefits.