Challenging the costs of relationship breakdown

Published on 12 February 2015

Summary

There have been numerous attempts to estimate the financial impact of relationship breakdown, resulting in very large figures attributed to separation – particularly parental separation. We review some of this analysis, and identify significant gaps and inaccuracies in current estimates. Gingerbread calls for caution in using these estimates and a better evidence base to understand the impact of poor relationship quality.

Key findings

  • While use of these estimates suggests otherwise, costs are not limited to state costs, nor are they ‘preventable’ costs
  • Some cost assumptions lack any notable evidence base; only three out of around 20 assumptions in the most prominent estimate of the cost of relationship breakdown are based on any evidence
  • The analysis confuses risk with causality – by attributing costs based on the increased risk of negative outcomes among separated households, the analysis assumes family structure itself causes these outcomes.