• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Marriage Goes Down, Poverty Goes Up

    An increasing rate of young adults in the United States seems to have cold feet when it comes to marriage.

    For the first time in recent history, adults between 25 and 34 years of age who are single outnumber their peers who are married. On top of this, the number of married adults in 2009 reached a historical low.

    Conor Doughtery, reporting on new Census numbers in The Wall Street Journal, writes:

    In 2009, the proportion of adults 25 to 34 who had never been married was 46.3%, compared with 44.9% for those who were married. …

    The precipitous drop in marriage rates has pushed the proportion of married adults to 52% in 2009, the lowest in more than 100 years of statistics.

    But the decline in marriage isn’t simply something for wedding dress manufacturers and florists to bemoan. The plummeting marriage rate has severe consequences for the entire nation.

    Hand-in-hand with the declining marriage rate comes an increasing number of children born outside of marriage. And having a child outside of marriage is one of the greatest predictors of poverty and being on welfare. A child born to a single mother is six times more likely to live in poverty than a child born to married parents, and 80 percent of long-term poverty occurs in single-parent homes.

    Unfortunately, Census data show that the rate of children born outside of marriage now stands at 40 percent, the highest ever in U.S. history. This number is even greater for Hispanics and African Americans, at approximately 50 and 70 percent, respectively. Considering the strong correlation between single motherhood and poverty, this growth in out-of-wedlock childbearing is tragic.

    Married fathers are one of the greatest protections against child poverty. If single fathers married the mothers of their children, nearly two-thirds of poor, single-mother families would be pulled out of poverty. On the other hand, over 40 years of increasing federal and state spending on welfare programs for the poor have been ineffective at helping people into self-reliance.

    If Americans are serious about assisting people out of welfare and into dependence—or helping people avoid welfare altogether—it is absolutely necessary to strengthen the institution of marriage. Fortunately, there are steps that we can take to do this. First, the federal government should reduce marriage penalties in current welfare programs. Second, existent programs targeting young adults in low-income communities should promote marriage and educate them about the negative consequences of having a child outside of marriage.

    When marriage breaks down, children, communities, and taxpayers feel the consequences. A strong nation is built on strong marriages. It’s time policymakers made the vow to promote this vital institution.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to Marriage Goes Down, Poverty Goes Up

    1. jill the plumber says:

      Actually, poverty keeps people from marrying. You've got the cart in front of the horse. Take for example a friend's mom whom (since her first husband died), refuses to remarry because she'd loose his military pension benefits and can't afford to live life without it. Or take a young couple who both earn minimum wage and get pregnant, the state's threshold for medicaid if they are single will cover her but if they were married they would earn more than the threshold and therefore not qualify for assitance, but still not be able to afford the medical bills since they have no employer provided health insurance. You all need to get a clue, get your heads out of academia and into the streets where people are seriously sacraficing their dignity to survive.

    2. Phil Oliver Billings says:

      There is nothing respectful about your treatment of poor people and the middle class in this country. Your desire to give tax breaks to the rich ignores the many studies that it does little to stimulate the economy . It allows the rich to invest in non-productive playthings. Your promotion of big business ignores the fact they ship jobs overseas and away from the american people. I have been around enough country-clubs to know how the rich disparage "the other half". I have heard businessmen shake in a rage that union members own "two snowmobiles that they do not deserve", that the income of the american people should make the income of third work countries. I used to be a Republican and I am sure that most of the Republican party of Goldwater and prior years would have nothing to do with you or the Tea Baggers. You not not true Christians and you are not true leaders. There is a huge amount of the New Testament you simply ignore and you are leading this country into disaster. We will be no better than a Third World country when you are through. Perhaps then the American People will see what greedy and selfish people really are.

    3. Eric - Alabama says:

      As my old graduate advisor was fond of saying, "Correlation does not equal causation."

      I believe that are over-simplifying a very complex issue.

    4. Dennis Georgia says:

      The "guvment" discourages marriage. Being a single "mom" carries great weight in society, they are pamperd and seen after, being "poor" opens the door to all kinds of "guvment" care and assistance, free food, low cost housing with utilities, free cell phones, free medical, school lunches and breakfast, all at the expense of the working people. They get all this because the "guvment" needs their votes to stay in power. The working people are in the minority, so we mean nothing to political persons.

    5. Dave Georgia says:

      Another possible answer – Current tax proposals will increase tax rates for married couples earning more than $250,000.Working couples who each earn $200,000 would pay taxes on $400,000 at the same rate as the married couple making $250,000.

    6. G Davis says:

      Phil and Jill missed the point of the article. The author states that

      "First, the federal government should reduce marriage penalties in current welfare programs. Second, existent programs targeting young adults in low-income communities should promote marriage and educate them about the negative consequences of having a child outside of marriage."

      Reducing the marriage penalties would allow the people in your examples to marry and still receive benefits. Hopefully at some point they would be doing well enough to get off the dole. Welfare and government assistance were meant to be temporary.

    7. Dave - Georgia says:

      another possible reason – proposed tax plans will increase tax rates on married couples earning more than $250,000.two single people living together could earn $200,000 each and pay at the same tax rate as the married couple. dave

    8. Pingback: When Marriage Goes Down, Does Poverty Go Up?

    9. Diana Ward says:

      Where are the churches??

    10. Pingback: The Prop 8 Ruling: Same-Sex Marriage Wins a Sweeping Legal Victory - Page 30

    11. Stephen, Chester, VA says:

      I like the last posted comment from Diana Ward "Where are the churches". My post is directed at the Christian Community. The church needs to get off the sideline and get involved.

    12. sunforester, beautif says:

      Churches are always welcome to get involved, but on their own time and with their own congregations. I usually like Heritage's opinions, but you really, really are intruding on our liberties every time you talk about marriage as being the only true salvation of this country.

      Folks, you do not have to be married to be in a stable household relationship that shares resources, promotes economic security, and safeguards the kids. What you call "marriage" is a great thing, but if you only hold full-boat, official marriages as valid to achieve your worthy but too micromanaged goals, you are very much mistaken.

      You seem to hold no respect for common-law relationships – as far as I'm concerned, such relationships walk, talk and quack just like a marriage, and does just as much good. Dump all this religious moralizing, and realize that married people are only a subset of a greater number of just-as-real families, but without the official seal of busybody authoritarian approval.

      Heritage should back off a long ways from its insistence on marriage as the only solution – this unusually narrow-minded position smells dangerously of socialist, high-handed policymaking run amok. Likewise, government should be removed as a potential domestic partner – all other domestic partners will be chosen without anyone else's assistance, thank you very much.

    13. Annoyed says:

      Not the sharpest tool in the shed are you? I got married to my husband 5 years ago. Guess what? Our income didn't magically increase. When this state refused to inforce domestic violence laws, my boss had to close down her (yes HER) business.

      My brother's tuition went up 50%, two of his four years in college. The other two years his tuition went up 30%. I'm the last age group in my are who had access to a highschool education. The local public schools have deteriorated so much now that straight A students can't graduate ready for college because the most rigorous classes offered are about the 10th grade level.

      In the 1950s if a company wanted American tax breaks the company had to actually do manufacturing in America. We can argue over the technicalities of American labor law, but surely we can all agree that locking teenage employs in a factory and allowing the manager to rape them, and then firing the girls for getting pregnant is not ethical. Google Richard Pombo, my former rep for this behavior. 50 years ago that same manufacturing job would have been paying an American enough to buy a home, not giving a disgusting Chinese overseer a chance to rape his employees.

      If you want to get Americans under 30 out of poverty, invest in education and jobs. Oh…and every generation is different. MOST families of my generation (under 30) are cohabitating not married. How is a marriage going to magically increase the mothers income since the father is already living in the household, paying the bills, and raising his children?

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×