Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society,«Marriage: America's No. 1 Weapon Against Childhood Poverty», The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., Fall 2010

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Patrick F. Fagan, Andrew J. Kidd and Henry Potryku, «Marriage and Economic Well-Being: The Economy of the Family Rises or Falls with Marriage», «Research Synthesis», Marriage and Religion Research Institute of the Family Research Council, Washington May 2011

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  • 1. Marriage: America’s No. 1 WeaponAgainst Childhood PovertyHow the Collapse of Marriage Hurts the Nation and 7 Steps to Reverse the Damage A Heritage Foundation Book of Charts Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society • Fall 2010
  • 2. Growth of Unwed Childbearing in the U.S., 1929–2008 Throughout most of U.S. PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKhistory, unwed childbearing wasrare. 50% When the federal governmentsWar on Poverty began in 1964, 40.6%only 6.3 percent of children in the 40%U.S. were born out of wedlock.However, over the next fourdecades, the number rose rapidly.By 2008, four out of 10 births 30%occurred outside of marriage. 20%Note: Initiated by President LyndonJohnson in 1964, the War on Povertyled to the creation of more than threedozen welfare programs to aid poor 10%persons.The government has spent$16.7 trillion on means-tested aid tothe poor since 1963.Source: U.S. Government, U.S. Census 0%Bureau, and National Center for Health 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2008Statistics. Chart 1 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 3. Death of Marriage in the U.S., 1929–2008 The marital birth rate—the PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKpercentage of all births that occurto married parents—is the flip side 100%of the out-of-wedlock birth rate. Through most of the 20th cen-tury, marital births were the normin the U.S. In 1963, more than 93percent of births occurred tomarried couples. 80% However, in the mid-1960s, themarital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2008, only 59 percentof births in the U.S. occurred tomarried couples. 60% 59.4%Note: In any given year, the sum of theout-of-wedlock birth rate (Chart 1)and the marital birth rate (Chart 2)equals 100 percent of all births.Source: U.S. Government, U.S. Census 40%Bureau, and National Center for Health 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2008Statistics. Chart 2 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 4. Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Poverty by 82 Percent The steady rise in out-of- PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN THAT ARE POORwedlock child bearing is a majorcause of high levels of child pov- 50%erty in the U.S. In 2008, more than a third (36.5percent) of single mothers withchildren were poor, compared to 40% 36.5%only 6.4 percent of marriedcouples with children. Single-parent families with 30%children are almost six times morelikely to be poor than are marriedcouples. 20% The higher poverty rate amongsingle-mother families is due bothto the lower education levels of 10%the mothers and the lower income 6.4%because of the absence of thefathers. 0% Single Parent, Married,Two-Parent Female-Headed FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, American FamiliesCommunity Survey, 2006–2008 data. Chart 3 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 5. One-Third of All Families with Children Are Not Married Overall, married couples head 100%roughly two-thirds of families withchildren in the U.S. The other 90%third are single-parent families. 33% Unmarried 80% Families 70% 60% 50% 40% 67% Married Families 30% 20% 10%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American 0%Community Survey, 2006–2008 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 6. 71 Percent of Poor Families with Children Are Not Married Nearly three-quarters of families 100%with children in the U.S. that arenot poor are married couples. 90% 26% By contrast, 71 percent of allpoor families with children are 80%headed by single parents. 70% 71.2% Unmarried 60% Families 50% 40% 74% 30% 20% 26.8% Married 10% Families 0% Non-Poor Poor FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, American FamiliesCommunity Survey, 2006–2008 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 7. Few Unwed Births Occur to Teenagers Out-of-wedlock births are often PERCENTAGE OF OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHSconfused erroneously with teen BY AGE OF MOTHERbirths, but only 8 percent of out-of-wedlock births in the U.S. occur Underto girls under age 18. Age 18: By contrast, some three out of 7.7%four unwed births occur to young Ageadult women between the ages of 30–54:18 and 29. 17.7% Age 18–19: 14.5% Age 25–29: 23.0% Age 20–24: 37.1%Note: Figures have been rounded.Source: U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2006 NHSdata. Chart 6 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 8. Less-Educated Women Are More Likely to Give Birth Outside Marriage Unwed childbearing occurs PERCENTAGE OF BIRTHS THAT ARE MARITALmost frequently among the OR OUT OF WEDLOCKwomen who will have the greatest 100% Unmarrieddifficulty supporting children by 8.3% Mothersthemselves: those with low levels 90%of education. 80% 34.0% Among women who are highschool dropouts, more than two- 51.4% 70%thirds of all births occur outside 67.4%marriage. Among women who 60%have only a high school diploma,slightly more than half of all births 50% 91.7% Marriedoccur outside marriage. By con- Mothers 40%trast, among women with at least a 66.0%college degree, only 8 percent of 30%births are out-of-wedlock. 48.6% 20% 32.6% 10% 0%Source: U.S. Department of Health and High School High School Some College Mother’sHuman Services, Centers for Disease Dropout Graduate College Graduate educationControl and Prevention, 2006 NHS (0–11 (12 (13–15 (16+ leveldata. Years) Years) Years) Years) Chart 7 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 9. Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in Reducing ChildPoverty in the United States The poverty rate for married PERCENTAGE OF Poverty Rate of Families bycouples is dramatically lower than FAMILIES THAT Single Education and Marital Statusthe rate for households headed by ARE POOR Married of the Head of Householdsingle parents. This is true even 50% 47%when the married couple is com-pared to single parents with thesame education level. 40% For example, in the U.S., thepoverty rate for a single mother 31.7%who has only a high school 30%diploma is 31.7 percent, but the 24.2%poverty rate for a married couple 20%family headed by an individual 15.2%who, similarly, has only a highschool degree is far lower at 5.6 10% 8.9%percent. 5.6% 3.2% 1.5% On average, marriage drops thepoverty rate by around 80 percent 0%among families with the same High School High School Some Collegeeducation level. Dropout Graduate College Graduate Note: Virtually none of the heads of families in the chart who are high school drop-Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American outs are minor teenagers.Community Survey 2006-2008 data. Chart 8 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 10. Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries considerably by race. 80% In 2006 (the most recent year 8.3% 71.6%for which racial breakdown isavailable), nearly four in 10 births 70%(39.7 percent) in the U.S. occurredoutside marriage. The unwed birth 60%rate was lowest among non- 51.3%Hispanic whites, at just over one 50%in four births (27.8 percent).Among Hispanics, more than half 39.7%of births were out-of-wedlock. 40%Among blacks, seven out of 10births were to unmarried women 30% 27.8%(71.6 percent). 20% 10% 0%Source: U.S. Department of Health and All Races White Hispanic BlackHuman Services, Centers for Disease Non- Non-Control and Prevention, 2006 NHS Hispanic Hispanicdata. Chart 9 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 11. Growth of Unwed Childbearing by Race, 1929–2008 Historically, out-of-wedlock PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKchildbearing has been somewhatmore frequent among blacks than 80%among whites. However, before Black Non-the onset of the federal govern- Hispanic 70%ments War on Poverty in 1964, 72.3%the rates for both whites andblacks were comparatively low. 60% Hispanic In 1963, not even one in 10 (3.1 52.5%percent) white children was born 50%outside marriage. By 2008, thenumber had risen to more than 40%one in four (28.6 percent). In 1963, about one in four black 30% White Non-children (24.2 percent) was born Hispanicoutside marriage. By 2008, the 28.6% 20%number had risen to nearly threein every four (72.3 percent). 10% 0%Source: U.S. Government, U.S. CensusBureau, and National Center for Health 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2008Statistics. Chart 10 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 12. Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Births in the U.S. In the U.S. in 2006, some 53.5percent of all births occurred to ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHSnon-Hispanic whites; 24.4 percentoccurred to Hispanics, and 14.7percent occurred to non-Hispanicblacks. 36.8% Because blacks and Hispanics White Non-are more likely to have children 53.5% Hispanicwithout being married, theyaccount for a disproportionatelylarge share of all out-of-wedlockbirths. Even so, the largest numberof unwed births are to white non- 30.9%Hispanic women. Hispanic In the U.S. in 2006, 37 percent 24.4%of all non-marital births were tonon-Hispanic whites; 31 percentwere to Hispanics, and 26 percent 25.6% Black Non-were to black non-Hispanic 14.7% Hispanicwomen.Source: U.S. Department of Health and 7.2% Asian/Other 8.5%Human Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2006 NHSdata. Note: Figures have been rounded. Chart 11 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 13. Non-Married White Families Are Seven Times More Likely to Be Poor Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for whites, blacks, and His-panics. 25% For example, in 2006, the pov- 21.7%erty rate for married white familieswas 3.1 percent. But the povertyrate for non-married white fami- 20%lies was seven times higher at 21.7percent. 15% 10% 5% 3.1% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2006–2008 data. Chart 12 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 14. Non-Married Black Families Are Five Times More Likely to Be Poor In 2006, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORblack married black couples was6.9 percent, while the poverty rate 40%for non-married black families wasmore than five times higher at 35.3%35.3 percent. 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 6.9% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2006–2008 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 15. Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Nearly Three Times More Likely toBe Poor In 2006, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families was12.8 percent, while the poverty 40% 37.5%rate among non-married familieswas nearly three times higher at37.5 percent. 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 12.8% 10% 5% 0%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Married Families Non-Married FamiliesCommunity Survey, 2006–2008 data. Chart 14 • Marriage and Poverty in the U.S. heritage.org
  • 16. 7 Steps to Reduce Child Poverty through MarriageGiven the importance of marriage in reducing child poverty, the following steps shouldbe undertaken to strengthen marriage in low income communities.1) Reduce anti-marriage penalties in welfare programs.2) Create public education campaigns in low-income communities on the benefits ofmarriage.3) Require welfare offices to provide factual information on the value of marriage inreducing poverty and welfare dependence.4) Explain the benefits of marriage in middle and high schools with a high proportion ofat-risk youth.5) Require federally funded birth control clinics to provide information on the benefits ofmarriage and the skills needed to develop stable families to interested low-income clients.6) Require federally funded birth control clinics to offer voluntary referrals to lifeplanning and marriage skills education to all interested low-income clients.7) Make voluntary marriage education widely available to interested couples in low-income communities.
  • 17. The Family & Religion Initiative is one of 10 Transformational Initiatives making up The HeritageFoundation’s Leadership for America campaign. For more products and information related to this initiativeor to learn more about the Leadership for America campaign, please visit heritage.org. The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is toformulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited gov-ernment, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Our vision is to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish. Asconservatives, we believe the values and ideas that motivated our Founding Fathers are worth conserving.As policy entrepreneurs, we believe the most effective solutions are consistent with those ideas and values. 214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE • Washington, D.C. 20002 • (202) 546-4400 • heritage.org