Ask The Colson Center

Divorce and Economics: A “What Would You Say?” Conversation with Katy Faust and Jay Richards


Brooke B. McIntire

We’re celebrating What Would You Say’s first birthday. We’ve had over 1 million views and 20,000 subscribers in just under a year. What Would You Say has made a huge impression on its viewers, and we’re so thankful for that.

In celebration of What Would You Say’s birthday, we had two of our favorite What Would You Say subject matter experts join us: Jay Richards and Katy Faust. They joined the Colson Center’s Brooke McIntire for a Facebook Live discussion.

As part of that conversation, each guest responded to several questions from our Colson Center audience.

Below is an edited excerpt of that time of Q&A, or you can watch the entire dialogue.

Here are Katy Faust, and Jay Richards:

A Colson Center audience member:

“My question is about older children or even adult children who are affected by their parents divorced. A good friend of mine is in a 20-year marriage and is deeply unhappy, he but wonders if he should stay married for the sake of his two children. I’ve heard John Stonestreet say on podcasts that children do better with unhappily, married parents than with happily divorced parents. And I’m wondering if there’s research that shows at what age, if ever, that is no longer true, if adult children are less affected by divorce than minor children are, or if the effects are equally devastating, regardless of the age of the children. I’m not looking to give my friend a reason to divorce, quite the opposite, but I don’t want to mislead him either by misrepresenting the facts.”

Katy Faust responds:

It’s amazing to me to read the stories of kids whose parents divorced when they were older, when they went in elementary school or middle school and how it rocks their world. There was one young woman who grew up in a professing Christian home. Her parents got divorced when she was a sophomore in college and it completely destabilized her completely.

She feared the possibility of getting married herself because she watched. And so you’ve made a couple claims that are exactly right. The first one is, yes, children do better in a mundane not gloriously happy marriage than they do when their parents are happily divorced.

Why is that?

Because children, especially when you’re under 18, are made for the daily connection with both mother and father. In a good divorce, children are only going to get 50% of each. That means that they are going to have 50% of those critical social, emotional staples that they’re made for: A mother’s love, a father’s love, and stability.

Stability is almost always completely gone after a divorce takes place. Especially when you’ve got kids living in the home, the staples mother’s love and father’s love are halved. Stability is almost always completely out the window.

Because we’ve studied divorce for decades, we know that divorce is not a onetime event for children. Divorce is the beginning of many losses and transitions that kids are going to experience. It is the death of the one-home stability. It becomes, mom moves out, has a boyfriend that comes and lives in. Maybe he’s got children that come live with him. Then dad remarries. But then, oftentimes those relationships fail and fracture, and one or both of the parents go on to form new relationships

Instability is the name of the game for children of divorce.

Now, kids who are older, don’t tend to suffer those same kind of losses if they’re out on their own, but the impact that it has on their future relationships are still being measured.

Here’s the other good news, when you’re unhappily married, very few people remain unhappily married for many years. Oftentimes you’re unhappily married for a short period of time. And oftentimes after a few years, you’re happily married again. Staying together for the sake of the kids oftentimes means staying together for your sake as well.

A Colson Center audience member:

“Mosaic law provided for the year of Jubilee as a bridal on runaway capitalism. What in modern economics can be used to prevent the very rich from getting richer and richer while the poor fall further and further behind? What will keep the US from looking like a Latin American country of haves and have-nots? Christ spoke volumes on how God expects us to care for the poor.”

Jay Richards responds:

There are actually multiple questions in there, and there are all also multiple assumptions in the question. Let me try to unpack those.

What was the year of Jubilee? I don’t know what is meant by the Jubilee year being there to restrict an unbridled capitalism, because there was no capitalism in ancient Israel. The idea of a capitalist economic system with banks and investment is a fairly recent phenomenon.

What you had in the Old Testament is a tribal and agrarian culture. Remember, the Hebrews were first nomadic and then they were agrarian and settled along tribal lines. What the Jubilee policy meant is that a family could not sell their land permanently to another tribe.

The basic idea was that if you had some land, and you became poor or got into debt or all your sons died and you couldn’t keep the land, you could sell it, allowing somebody else could use the land, but you could not sell it permanently. What it meant is you were “selling” your land but only as a maximum 50-year lease, with the price on the land based on how many years there was until it reverted back to its original owner at the Jubilee.

That’s what that was. Presumably the purpose of it was because, with a tribal and an agrarian culture, they didn’t want land to fall out of the hands of family properties. This is similar to what England had with the law of entailment, which stated that land had to continue to be held by a particular family and passed on.

What would be the functional equivalent to something like that? Again, it didn’t have anything to do with capitalism, because capitalism didn’t exist. What it did have to do with was an attempt to maintain a family-owned or tribal-owned agrarian culture. We live in a society now in which maybe 2 percent of the population lives and works on farms, so it’s not clear what kind of equivalent would be for that today.

If you’re worried for instance, about the danger of a poor person getting further and further behind, something like a bankruptcy law would be probably the closest thing. Remember there was a time, not that long ago in the English-speaking world, in which a person could get thrown into jail if they couldn’t pay back their debt.

Now, the logic of that escapes me because it’s not clear how you pay somebody back if you’re thrown into jail. This is the origin of bankruptcy law. It was essentially so that people don’t continue spiraling out of control.

When you have bankruptcy law, there’s a tradeoff. Economists will tell you if somebody lends money, and they know that they could declare bankruptcy, then those lenders are going to be more careful who they lend money to. That’s why loans tend to be so structured because lenders want to avoid that.

I think bankruptcy law is a really good way of resolving this problem. If somebody just gets far behind, and there’s no way they’re going to be able to recover from it, they can declare bankruptcy. There are consequences to that. They’re going to have a hard time getting loans, at least in the near future, but the slate is sort of wiped clean. I would say that’s the closest modern version of the kind of functional equivalent of a Jubilee law. I think that it’s actually a really good thing.


If you would like your own questions addressed by Colson Center staff, please email us at


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