Marriage: West Virginia’s No. 1 Weapon Against Childhood PovertyHow the Collapse of Marriage Hurts Children and Three Steps to Reverse the Damage A Heritage Foundation Book of Charts • 2012 Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society
Growth of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in West Virginia, 1929–2010 Throughout most of West PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKVirginia’s history, out-of-wedlockchildbearing was rare. 50% When the federal government’s 44.0%War on Poverty began in 1964,only 7 percent of children in West 40%Virginia were born out of wedlock.However, over the next fourdecades, the number rose rapidly.By 2010, 44 percent of births in 30%West Virginia occurred outside ofmarriage. 20%Note: Initiated by President LyndonJohnson in 1964, the War on Povertyled to the creation of more than three 10%dozen welfare programs to aid poorpersons. Government has spent $16.7trillion on means-tested aid to the poorsince 1964. 0%Sources: U.S. Government, U.S. CensusBureau, and National Center for Health 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010Statistics. Chart 1 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Death of Marriage in West Virginia, 1929–2010 The marital birth rate—the PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN TO MARRIED COUPLESpercentage 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 West Virginia. In 1964, over 93percent of births occurred tomarried couples. 80% However, in the mid-1960s, themarital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2010, only 56 percentof births in West Virginia occurredto married couples. 60% 56.0%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. 40%Sources: U.S. Government, U.S. CensusBureau, and National Center for Health 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010Statistics. Chart 2 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
In West Virginia, Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Povertyby 79 Percent The rapid rise in out-of-wedlock PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN THAT ARE POORchildbearing is a major cause of 60%high levels of child poverty inWest Virginia. 49.5% Some 49.5 percent of single 50%mothers with children are poorcompared to 10.6 percent of mar-ried couples with children. 40% Single-parent families withchildren are nearly ﬁve times more 30%likely to be poor than families inwhich the parents are married. The higher poverty rate among 20%single-mother families is due bothto the lower education levels of 10.6%the mothers and the lower income 10%due to the absence of the father. 0% Single-Parent, Married,Two-ParentSource: U.S. Census Bureau, American Female-Headed FamiliesCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Families Chart 3 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Nearly One-Third of All Families with Children in West VirginiaAre Not Married Overall, married couples headabout two-thirds of families withchildren in West Virginia. Almostone-third are single-parentfamilies. Unmarried Families 31.9% Married Families 68.1%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
In West Virginia, Two-Thirds of Poor Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Among poor families withchildren in West Virginia,two-thirds are not married. Bycontrast, one-third of poor familieswith children are headed bymarried couples. Married Families 33.3% Unmarried Families 66.7%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2006–2008 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
In West Virginia, Few Unwed Births Occur to Teenagers Out-of-wedlock births are PERCENTAGE OF OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHSoften confused erroneously BY AGE OF MOTHERwith teen births, but only 8.1percent of out-of-wedlock births Underin West Virginia occur to girls Age 18:under age 18. 8.1% By contrast, some 79 percent Ageof out-of-wedlock births occur 30–54:to young adult women between 12.9%the ages of 18 and 29. Age 18–19: Age 16.9% 25–29: 21.5% Age 20–24: 40.6%Note: Figures have been rounded.Source: U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Chart 6 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Less-Educated Women in West Virginia Are More Likely to Give BirthOutside Marriage Unwed childbearing occurs most PERCENTAGE OF BIRTHS THAT ARE MARITALfrequently among the women who OR OUT OF WEDLOCKwill have the greatest difﬁculty sup- 100% Unmarriedporting children by themselves: those 8.1%with low levels of education. 90% Mothers In the U.S., among women who 42%are high school dropouts, about 65.2 80%percent of all births occur outside 54.5%marriage. Among women who have 70%only a high school diploma, well over 65.2%half of all births occur outside mar- 60% Marriedriage. By contrast, among women 91.9% 50% Motherswith at least a college degree, only8.1 percent of births are out of wed- 40%lock. 58% 30%Note: Specific data on out-of-wedlock 45.5%births and maternal education are not 20%available in West Virginia. However, the 34.8%pattern varies little between states. 10%West Virginia data will be very similar tothe national data presented in this chart. 0% High School High School Some College Mother’sSource: U.S. Department of Health and Dropout Graduate College Graduate educationHuman Services, Centers for Disease (0–11 (12 (13–15 (16+ levelControl and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Years) Years) Years) Years) Chart 7 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in ReducingChild Poverty in West Virginia The poverty rate of married PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES Poverty Rate of Families bycouples with children is dramati- WITH CHILDREN THAT Single Education and Marital Statuscally lower than the rate for house- ARE POOR Married of the Head of Householdholds headed by single parents. 80%This is true even when the married 74.5%couple is compared to single par- 70%ents with the same education level. 60% For example, in West Virginia,the poverty rate for a single 50.2% 50.1% 50%mother who has only a high 42.4%school diploma is 50.2 percent, 40.1% 40%but the poverty rate for a marriedcouple family headed by an indi- 30%vidual who, similarly, has only ahigh school degree is far lower at 20% 12.7%12.7 percent. 10% 7.6% On average, marriage drops the 1.8%poverty rate by about 73 percent 0%among families with the same High School High School Some Collegeeducation level. Dropout Graduate College GraduateSource: U.S. Census Bureau, American Note: Virtually none of the heads of families in the chart who are high schoolCommunity Survey, 2005–2009 data. dropouts are minor teenagers. Chart 8 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race in West Virginia Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries by race. 80% In 2008, 42 percent of births in 75%West Virginia occurred outside 8.3%marriage. The rate was lowest 70%among non-Hispanic whites.Among this group four in ten 60%births were non-marital. Among Hispanics, 45 percent of 50%births were out of wedlock. 45% 42% 40.8%Among blacks, three in every four 40%children were to unmarriedwomen. 30% 20% 10% 0%Source: U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, Centers for Disease All Races White Hispanic BlackControl and Prevention, 2008 NHS Non- Non-data. Hispanic Hispanic Chart 9 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing by Race in West Virginia, 1935–2008 Historically, out-of-wedlock PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKchildbearing has been somewhatmore frequent among blacks than 80%among whites. However, prior to Black Non-the onset of the federal Hispanic 70% 75.0%government’s War on Poverty in1964, the rates for both whites andblacks were comparatively low. 60% In 1964, about one in twenty(5.8 percent) white children in 50%West Virginia were born outside White Non-marriage. By 2008, the number 40% Hispanichad risen to four in ten (40.8 40.8%percent). 30% In 1964, about one in threeblack children (32.1 percent) were 20%born outside marriage. By 2008,the number had risen to three infour. 10% 0%Sources: U.S. Government, U.S. Census 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2008Bureau, and National Center for HealthStatistics. Chart 10 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
West Virginia Has the Highest White Unwed Birth Rate in the Nation West Virginia has the highestnon-marital birth rate among 40.8%white non-Hispanic women in the 40%nation. Across the nation, 28.6 percentof white non-Hispanic childrenwere born outside marriage in 30% 28.6%2008. In West Virginia, thenumber was 40.8 percent. 20% 10% 0%Source: U.S. Department of Health and National West VirginiaHuman Services, Centers for Disease AverageControl and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Chart 11 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Birthsin West Virginia In West Virginia in 2008, some ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS94 percent of all births occurred tonon-Hispanic whites, 3.8 percentoccurred to non-Hispanic blacks,and 1.1 percent occurred to His-panics. 94% White Non- 91.4% Because blacks are more likely Hispanicto have children without beingmarried, they account for aslightly larger share of all out-of-wedlock births. Even so, the over-whelming majority of unwedbirths occur to white non-Hispanic women. In West Virginia in 2008, 91.4percent of all non-marital birthswere to non-Hispanic whites, 6.8percent were to black non-Hispanic women, and 1.2 percent Blackwere to Hispanics. Non-Hispanic 3.8% 6.8% 1.1% Hispanic 1.2%Source: U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, Centers for Disease 1.1% Asian/Other 0.6%Control and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Note: Figures have been rounded. Chart 12 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Non-Married White Families Are Five Times More Likely to Be Poor inWest Virginia Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for whites, blacks, and His-panics. 40% For example, in 2009, the pov- 36%erty rate for married white families 35%in West Virginia was 7.2 percent.But the poverty rate for non- 30%married white families was ﬁvetimes higher at 36 percent. 25% 20% 15% 10% 7.2% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Non-Married Black Families Are Four Times More Likely to Be Poor inWest Virginia In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORmarried black couples in WestVirginia was 9.8 percent, while the 50%poverty rate for non-married blackfamilies was over four times 41.9%higher at 41.9 percent. 40% 30% 20% 9.8% 10% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 14 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Three Times More Likely to Be Poorin West Virginia In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families in WestVirginia was 13.4 percent, while 40%the poverty rate among non- 35.4%married families was nearly threetimes higher at 35.4 percent. 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 13.4% 10% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 15 • Marriage and Poverty in West Virginia heritage.org
Three Steps to Reduce Child Poverty through Marriage1) Provide information on the beneﬁts of marriage in reducing child poverty and improving child well-being. Marriage is a highly effective institution which greatly decreases parental and child poverty while improving long-term outcomes for children. Conversely, the absence of marriage greatly increases welfare costs and imposes added burdens on taxpayers. Unfortunately, almost no information on these topics is available in low-income communities. This information deﬁcit should be corrected in the following manner: • Explain the beneﬁts of marriage in middle and high schools with a high proportion of at-risk youth; • Create public education campaigns in low-income communities on the beneﬁts of marriage; and, • Require federally funded birth control clinics to provide information on the beneﬁts of marriage and the skills needed to develop stable families to interested low-income clients.2) Reduce anti-marriage penalties in means-tested welfare programs.3) Promote life-goal-planning, marriage-strengthening, and divorce-reduction programs to increase healthy marriages and reduce divorce and separation.
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