Abstract: Child poverty is an ongoing national concern, but few are aware that its principal cause is the absence of married fathers in the home. Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline. As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result. Since marital decline drives up child poverty and welfare dependence, and since the poor aspire to healthy marriage but lack the norms, understanding, and skills to achieve it, it is reasonable for government to take active steps to strengthen marriage. Just as government discourages youth from dropping out of school, it should provide information that will help people to form and maintain healthy marriages and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable. In particular, clarifying the severe shortcomings of the “child first, marriage later” philosophy to potential parents in lower-income communities should be a priority.
Child poverty is an ongoing national concern, but few are aware of its principal cause: the absence of married fathers in the home. According to the U.S. Census, the poverty rate for single parents with children in the United States in 2008 was 36.5 percent. The rate for married couples with children was 6.4 percent. Being raised in a married family reduced a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 80 percent. (See Chart 1.)
Some of this difference in poverty is due to the fact that single parents tend to have less education than married couples, but even when married couples are compared to single parents with the same level of education, the married poverty rate will still be more than 75 percent lower. Marriage is a powerful weapon in fighting poverty. In fact, being married has the same effect in reducing poverty that adding five to six years to a parent’s level of education has. Read more