There has been a lot of talk about poverty lately. Between Republicans calling President Obama the “Welfare President” and asserting he stripped the work requirement from welfare, to Democrats arguing Mitt Romney doesn’t care about the poor, poverty is a hot topic these days.
Recently, a report by the Heritage Foundation suggests a solution to tackle America’s growing poverty problem: marriage.
According to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, one third of single parent families with children fall below the poverty line. Conversely, only six percent of married families with children are living in poverty, a difference of over 80 percent.
While the majority of children in the U.S. are born to married couples, the percentage of babies born to single parents has risen sharply throughout the years. These days, 42 percent of kids are born to unmarried parents, and for African Americans that number is nearly 70 percent (almost 53 percent for Latinos). According to researchers with the Heritage Foundation, this is a recipe for poverty.
Most poor children live in single-parent families. Seventy-one percent of poor families with children are headed by single parents, mostly single mothers. Compared to children raised in an intact family, children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; and drop out of high school.
Rising non-marital births leads to increased poverty. In 2010, 41 percent of children were born outside marriage, up from roughly 5 percent in 1960. Children born to unmarried women are very likely to live in persistent poverty.
Despite the rise in single parent families (not to be confused with teenage births which make up just 7.7 percent of babies born to unmarried parents), researchers found that unmarried mothers do value marriage, but often find themselves pregnant due to limited resources and improper education about how single parenting often leads to poverty.
According to the Heritage Foundation, married fathers are one of the single biggest deterrents of poverty, but while they are long on assertions that marriage can prevent outcomes of poverty they are short on solutions.
Recent studies have shown that access to free birth control lowers abortion rates and prevents many out of wedlock births, but Conservatives have traditionally been against such measures.
The Heritage Foundation criticizes the government for its “faulty policies” that merely treat the side-effects of poverty, but aside from saying that marriage can prevent poverty they offer few solutions on how to encourage more people to choose marriage while eschewing out of wedlock births.
While it’s clear that children are better off when raised in a home with two loving parents, is marriage the sole solution to our growing poverty problem?