Families of One: Should There Be Such a Thing?
A new book makes the case for the legal recognition of more kinds of families
People who are married have access to many important federal benefits and protections that are not available to single people or the important people in their lives, such as a close friend or a special relative. Those advantages include economic ones, health-related ones, advantages relevant to children, and many others. The economic benefits include, among others:
· Access to a partner’s Social Security benefits
· The right to inherit property even if your spouse dies without a will
· Tax breaks on estate taxes
· Tax breaks on inheritance taxes
· Exemptions from penalties on IRAs that unmarried people pay
· Spouses can give each other huge monetary gifts without paying taxes, and together, they can give twice that amount to a recipient and the recipient won’t have to pay taxes
· Income tax breaks (for married couples filing jointly compared to solo single people)
In her new book, The Love Jones Cohort: Single and Living Alone in the Black Middle Class, University of Maryland sociologist Kris Marsh argues for the adoption of new laws and policies that would benefit people who are single and living alone (SALA). For example, people who live alone are considered members of a household — a household of one — but they are not considered families. They often have important people in their lives, and Black singles in particular often provide financial support to friends and extended family members.
If single people living alone were legally recognized as families, either on their own or together with the important people in their lives, they would have access to more of the benefits and protections that are currently denied to them. Those benefits include the federal advantages such as the ones listed above, as well as more informal ones. For example, if single people and their closest friends were considered families, then they would not have to hope that cell phone providers would include friends in their family plans; close friends would already legally qualify as family.