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  • The Poverty Solution: Marriage or Bust

    Last week, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that the U.S. just saw the largest annual increase in poverty recorded in our nation’s history: In 2009, 3.7 million more Americans joined the ranks of the poor.

    The recession bears part of the blame, but media outlets have failed to inform the public about the long-term root cause of poverty in this country: unwed childbearing. Buried in the Census report are startling figures revealing that the collapse of marriage is creating this crisis of poverty. Single-mother families are almost five times more likely to be poor than are married couples with children; overall, nearly 70 percent of poor families with children are headed by single parents.

    The biggest secret in the Census report: Marriage is America’s number-one weapon against child poverty. Tragically, however, marriage has been rapidly declining in our society and the number of women who have children outside of marriage has soared. Historically, unwed childbearing was rare. In 1964, when the federal government launched its War on Poverty, 6.8 percent of births were to single mothers. Today, the unwed birthrate has climbed to 40 percent: four of every ten births are to single mothers. For Hispanics and African Americans, the rates rise to nearly 50 and over 70 percent.

    While the media is quick to decry the crisis of teen pregnancy, the fact is that less than 8 percent of new single mothers are minors. In fact, the overwhelming majority of unwed births are to young adult women in their 20s. And because most of these women have little education, they are unable to provide for themselves and their children and, consequently, a large portion of them end up on welfare.

    However, if these women were to marry the fathers of their children, nearly two-thirds of them would be immediately lifted from poverty. Contrary to conventional wisdom, nearly all unwed fathers are employed and earn enough money to move their families out of poverty. But, tragically, few unwed parents marry.

    It’s not a question of money: The government has continued to pour funds into welfare programs over the past several decades, to the point that the United States will soon be spending $1 trillion a year on programs for the poor. Yet poverty rates have significantly climbed.

    And while data clearly show the importance of marriage to reducing poverty — not to mention its association with numerous other positive outcomes for children — the federal government has done relatively little to promote it. In fact, the Obama administration has sought to undo efforts put into place during the previous administration aimed at helping low-income couples build strong marriages.

    If Americans are serious about reducing poverty and getting control of federal welfare spending, it is vital to strengthen the institution of marriage. There are two steps that the United States can take to help low-income couples build healthy marriages, and by so doing, break the cycle of poverty. First, the federal government must reduce the marriage penalties in current welfare programs. Second, government and society should send a clear message to young people in low-income communities that having a child outside of marriage dramatically increases the odds of long-term poverty and other ills. Just as we tell young people that dropping out before you finish high school is likely to harm your future, we should forcefully inform low-income youth that having a child outside of marriage is self-destructive. It’s the surest road to long-term poverty.

    The current growth of the welfare state is unsustainable. Over the next decade, government will spend more than $10 trillion on cash, food, housing, and medical care for the poor. It will be very difficult to slow the growth of welfare spending if marriage continues to disappear in the bottom half of the population.

    Unfortunately, both government and popular culture treat marriage as an outmoded, irrelevant institution. To reduce poverty and limit the growth of the welfare state, that attitude must change.

    ?Cross-posted at The Corner.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to The Poverty Solution: Marriage or Bust

    1. Gregory B, MD says:

      Pretty scary stuff. Being newly married I understand how this happens financially. It seems though that the tax code is penalizing to married couples though and would need to be reformed. How about a flat tax? The more I hear of this theory it seems to make better sense from a budgeting standpoint. If there is a flat-tax, would that mean the disbanding of the IRS? How would it be implemented?

    2. Drew Page, IL says:

      The article points to another "inconvenient truth" about our society. A major reason for the growth of poverty in this country is the increase in the number of children being born out of wedlock.

      The statistics cited in this article are staggering. In 1964 only 6.8% of all births were to unwed mothers. Today that 6.8% has increased to 40% overall. Among Hispanics and African-Americans that rate jumps to 50% and 70% respectively. No one wants to see innocent children suffer as a result of being born to parents who can't or won't support their children.

      The article says that the U.S. spends nearly a trillion dollars a year on programs for the poor, yet the poverty rate increases. It is obvious that the more you subsidize something, the more you will get of it. The current welfare system rewards unwed mothers by increasing payments when they have another child. The welfare system should consider increasing welfare payments to unmarried men and women who choose voluntary sterilization, which could be covered under Medicaid.

    3. Darrell , FL says:

      Most of the government's social programs, including welfare for the poor, are "gamed" by the people to get the most money possible. Many work "under the table" to keep their benefits. Marriage costs them money or benefits, so they will not marry. These programs are destroying the family, the basis for a strong United States. Why is this so hard for those in power to understand?

      Which of the children's fathers should she marry? Many women have children to multiple fathers. To promote responsibility and to control costs, these fathers must be forced to pay for their share of the child's support. Limits must be imposed on adding future children of welfare recipients to the roles or we will never dig ourselves out of this problem. (Like zero.) The tax code should be changed to tax those working under the table. Maybe a national sales tax, (NOT a VAT.)

    4. Larry Welch, Idaho says:

      Political Correctness + Reality = Innocent Victims

      When "compassion" , welfare, results in growing numbers of children born to unwed mothers, it must be recognized as the blunder it is.

    5. James D. , Maine says:

      Until the government stops handing out to those that take unfair advantage of the system, this problem will continue. It's hard to bear witness to the numbers of people who "game" the system to continue to get their food stamps, welfare checks, etc. They need to be cut off and not allowed to welch from the public coffers. Welfare recipients should not be allowed to have more than 2 children. The fathers should be forced to pay back for any funds handed out.

    6. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      I know a little something about Statistics Interpretation, and evaluating them. That is a Statistic that has been driven up. You can tell by the incline it has been nursed and measured, continuous growth. Look at the rest of our American Statistics. You will see those which have been driven down. They have the same look, the same slope. They are tended, supervised, and that is the best destruction possible, say your Board Room was infiltrated or your business was being driven into the ground.

      Us primative family values nuts, clinging to our guns and Constitution, we can trace the Progressive Agenda one hundred years of perfidy. They paid the women to break up their families, they put your men in jail, laid waste to the Neighborhood. You didn't know it, we have been secretly Communist. Your shortfall was never more than the Socialists took from you. Point is our kinder, gentler government has been playing this Kloward Piven game and the RINOs are so blind you can get them to Legislate blindness. If you are blind you can pass Bills without reading them. So it isn't so far fetched, the War On Poverty created poverty as far as the eye can see!

    7. Walter. Michigan says:

      Perhaps we need to encourage marriage. Give newly marrieds a tax break instead of a tax increase. Make classes on marriage be manditory in high school. Teach boys and girls that love and respect for each other in marriage is much more important than sex. When children come along they should be treated as a gift from God. They should attend manditory classes on how to raise children with love and dicipline. When they are ready for school they will be ready to learn and obey the rules. Children will learn thet adults want the best for them and obedience from them.

    8. Terry, WA says:

      i thought welfare reform was supposed to reduce the subsidy of unwed parenthood by placing time limits on welfare benefits, which would reduce the incidence of unwed parenthood. What went wrong?

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