By Robert W. Patterson (of the Howard Center)
The 1948 act was not the largest tax cut of the century. But unlike the tax cuts of the Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush eras, the measure nursed near-record levels of industrial growth and economic expansion without sacrificing family size, moving nearly half of all married mothers into the full-time labor market, or reducing the relative earnings of married men. Nor did the good times coincide with the unraveling of the family, another plus that puts the economic performance of the past generation in perspective.
In fact, the 1948 Revenue Act contributed to a turnaround — between 1945 and 1963 — of social indicators that some sociologists claim today are irreversible. Not only did marriage rates rise, but the proportion of adults reaping the joys of marital bliss hit a record: 95 percent of Americans coming of age then would tie the knot. Marital fertility rates doubled between 1944 and 1957, raising average family size from two to nearly four children, securing baby boomers a wealth of siblings and cousins and their progeny a wealth of aunts and uncles. Also good for the younger set, the divorce rate declined for the first time in history, reaching a low of about 9 divorces per 1,000 married women in 1958.