With the recent U.S. Supreme Court cases allowing gay marriage, and the government never stopping people from getting married who couldn't have children, the last vestiges of the "marriage is for raising children" argument have gone by the wayside.

What is the government's interest in marriage?

What is stopping me from finding a poor college student, marrying him for the tax incentives (and him me for the health insurance), and breaking it off when it is no longer financially or emotionally convenient?

I ask from both a practical standpoint (can I do it) and a philosophical standpoint (if I tried this and it were challenged all the way to the supreme court, what would the likely out come be).

  • The definition of raze is to completely destroy. Perhaps you intended to use "raising" instead of "razing"? Jan 5, 2016 at 17:53
  • @Jason Aller although my way is funnier to me, you are correct.
    – Sam
    Jan 5, 2016 at 17:54
  • 1
    There are tax incentives for getting married??? First I've heard of it. I have plenty of experience with the marriage penalty, however.
    – Mohair
    Jan 5, 2016 at 20:51
  • @Mohair from what I can tell they come when you have highly differential incomes.
    – Sam
    Jan 5, 2016 at 22:08
  • 2
    Perhaps this is not a legal question.
    – jqning
    Jan 30, 2016 at 21:03

2 Answers 2


What is stopping me from going and finding a poor college student, marrying them for the tax incentives (and them me for the health insurance), and breaking it off when it is no longer financially or emotionally convenient?

Nothing, go for it.

Breaking it off, i.e. getting a divorce, leaves questions of who gets what assets - you will need to consult local laws for your jurisdiction and consider whether a prenuptial agreement is necessary to keep you and your partner honest. But assuming both parties are honest and don't try to cheat each other, there's no reason the arrangement you describe wouldn't work.

Why politicians create incentives for it may be more of a question of politics than of law. Practically speaking, the incentives may have been imagined at a time when procreation was the purpose of marriage and the incentives were aimed at promoting that. It may continue to exist out of mere political inertia - nobody wants to be the politician that takes away tax benefits from the constituency.

  • 1
    The incentives may have been imagined at a time when female labor force participation and wage differential were even more different than parity with men than they are currently. +1 that this is purely a political question.
    – user662852
    Jan 5, 2016 at 19:14
  • Inertia. Sounds about right.
    – jqning
    Jan 30, 2016 at 20:53
  • 3
    In the UK, going through the formalities of marrying a person without the intent of having an actual marriage (like sharing your income, your home, your bed ans so on) as the poster described is illegal. It's even illegal to perform the marriage if you know about it.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 31, 2016 at 13:28
  • 1
    In Belgium and possibly other EU countries there's a concept of "pretend marriage" when, for example, an immigrant marries a local purely for the sake of getting to stay in the country, there's a whole legal framework around it and they do all kinds of checks including a cross interview with the two separated if they suspect it. It's an arms race, too, so there are guides how to pass those checks (like coming up with a story of how you met, learning about each other's families etc). The English term is "sham marriage" and the Wikipedia page mentions UK. The Dutch word is "schijnhiwelijk". Feb 3, 2021 at 11:01

Why does the government incentivise marriage?

"There is no explicit federal policy in the United States for penalizing or subsidizing marriage."


[T]he combined tax liability of two single people often increased with marriage. Since the reforms of 1969, numerous modifications have been made to the income tax laws that have altered the magnitude of the marriage penalty. However, most recent evidence documents that many couples still face a tax penalty because they are married.

See the marriage penalty for more details. (Two other articles: 1, 2)

What is the government's interest in marriage?

Marriage is a fundamental right. That is the government's interest in marriage.

This was stated most recently in Obergefell v Hodges:

the Court has reiterated that the right to marry is fundamental under the Due Process Clause


The four principles and traditions to be discussed demonstrate that the reasons marriage is fundamental under the Constitution apply with equal force to same-sex couples.


the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals

  • 3
    You don't really answer the question. Free speech is a fundamental right, but the government does not incentivise it.
    – Sam
    Jan 5, 2016 at 18:36
  • 1
    taxfoundation.org/article/… begs to differ about there being no marriage bonus, So you still haven't answered the question.
    – Sam
    Jan 5, 2016 at 22:14

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