Marriage:Wisconsin’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 Wisconsin, 1929–2010 Throughout most of PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKWisconsin’s history, out-of-wedlock childbearing was rare. 40% When the federal government’s 36.7%War on Poverty began in 1964, 35%only 4.1 percent of children inWisconsin were born out of wed- 30%lock. However, over the next fourdecades, the number rose rapidly.By 2010, 36.7 percent of births in 25%Wisconsin occurred outside ofmarriage. 20% 15%Note: Initiated by President LyndonJohnson in 1964, the War on Poverty 10%led to the creation of more than threedozen welfare programs to aid poorpersons. Government has spent $16.7 5%trillion 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 Wisconsin heritage.org
Death of Marriage in Wisconsin, 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 Wisconsin. In 1964, about 96 90%percent of births occurred tomarried couples. However, in the mid-1960s, themarital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2010, only 63.3 80%percent of births in Wisconsinoccurred to married couples. 70%Note: In any given year, the sum of theout-of-wedlock birth rate (Chart 1)and the marital birth rate (Chart 2) 63.3%equals 100 percent of all births. 60%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 Wisconsin heritage.org
In Wisconsin, Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Povertyby 88 Percent The rapid rise in out-of-wedlock PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN THAT ARE POORchildbearing is a major cause of 50%high levels of child poverty inWisconsin. Some 36 percent of single moth- 40%ers with children are poor com- 36%pared to 4.2 percent of marriedcouples with children. Single-parent families with 30%children are nearly nine timesmore likely to be poor than fami-lies in which the parents are mar- 20%ried. The higher poverty rate amongsingle-mother families is due both 10%to the lower education levels ofthe mothers and the lower income 4.2%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 Wisconsin heritage.org
One-Third of All Families with Children in Wisconsin Are Not Married Overall, married couples headabout two-thirds of families withchildren in Wisconsin. Nearlyone-third are single-parentfamilies. Unmarried Families 31.4% Married Families 68.6%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in Wisconsin heritage.org
In Wisconsin, 77 Percent of Poor Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Among poor families withchildren in Wisconsin, more thanthree-quarters are not married. Bycontrast, only 23 percent of poorfamilies with children are headed Marriedby married couples. Families 22.7% Unmarried Families 77.3%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in Wisconsin heritage.org
In Wisconsin, 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 6.7 percent ofout-of-wedlock births in Wiscon- Undersin occur to girls under age 18. Age 18: 6.7% By contrast, some 77 percent ofout-of-wedlock births occur to Ageyoung adult women between the 30–54: Ageages of 18 and 29. 15.9% 18–19: 14.1% Age 25–29: 23.2% Age 20–24: 40.1%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 Wisconsin heritage.org
Less Educated Women Are More Likely to Give BirthOutside of 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%porting children by themselves: those 8.1% Unmarriedwith low levels of education. 90% Mothers In the U.S., among women who 80% 42%are high school dropouts, about 65.2percent of all births occur outside 54.5% 70% Marriedmarriage. Among women who have 65.2% 91.9% Mothersonly a high school diploma, well over 60%half of all births occur outside mar-riage. By contrast, among women 50%with at least a college degree, only 40%8.1 percent of births are out of wed- 58%lock. 30%Note: Specific data on out-of-wedlock 45.5%births and maternal education are not 20%available in Wisconsin. However, the 34.8%pattern varies little between states. 10%Wisconsin 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 NHS Years) Years) Years) Years)data. Chart 7 • Marriage and Poverty in Wisconsin heritage.org
Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in ReducingChild Poverty in Wisconsin 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. 70%This is true even when the marriedcouple is compared to single par- 60% 58.6%ents with the same education level. For example, in Wisconsin, the 50%poverty rate for a single motherwho has only a high school 40%diploma is 34.4 percent, but the 34.4%poverty rate for a married couple 30% 27.3%family headed by an individualwho, similarly, has only a high 20% 18.0%school degree is far lower at5.2 percent. 10.1% 10% 5.2% 3.2% On average, marriage drops the 1.2%poverty rate by about 83 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 Wisconsin heritage.org
Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race in Wisconsin Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries considerably by race. In 2008, 36.3 percent of 80% 83.9%births in Wisconsin occurred 8.3%outside marriage. The rate was 70%lowest among non-Hispanicwhites at about one in four 60%births (27.9 percent). Among 53.8%Hispanics, well over half of 50%births were out of wedlock.Among blacks, more than ﬁvein every six births were to 40% 36.3%unmarried women (83.9 per-cent). 30% 27.9% 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 Wisconsin heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing by Race in Wisconsin, 1935–2008 Historically, out-of-wedlock PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKchildbearing has been somewhat 100%more frequent among blacks thanamong whites. However, prior to Black Non-the onset of the federal Hispanicgovernment’s War on Poverty in 83.9% 80%1964, the rates for both whites andblacks were comparatively low. In 1964, less than one in thirty(3.2 percent) white children were 60% Hispanicborn outside marriage. By 2008, 53.8%the number had risen to about onein four (27.9 percent). 40% In 1964, about one in four blackchildren (25.4 percent) were born White Non-outside marriage. By 2008, the Hispanicnumber had risen to over ﬁve in 27.9% 20%every six (83.9 percent). 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 Wisconsin heritage.org
Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Birthsin Wisconsin In Wisconsin in 2008, some ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS74.5 percent of all births occurredto non-Hispanic whites, 10 per-cent occurred to non-Hispanicblacks, and 9.8 percent occurredto Hispanics. Because blacks and Hispanicsare more likely to have children 74.5% White Non- 57.2%without being married, they Hispanicaccount for disproportionatelylarger shares of all out-of-wedlockbirths. Even so, the largest numberof unwed births are to white non-Hispanic women. In Wisconsin in 2008, 57.2percent of all non-marital births 23.1%were to non-Hispanic whites, 23.1percent were to black non- 10.0% Black Non-Hispanic women, and 14.5 percent Hispanicwere to Hispanics. 9.8% Hispanic 14.5%Source: U.S. Department of Health and 5.7% Asian/Other 5.2%Human Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Note: Figures have been rounded. Chart 11 • Marriage and Poverty in Wisconsin heritage.org
Non-Married White Families Are Ten Times More Likely to Be Poorin Wisconsin Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for whites, blacks, and His-panics. 25% 22.9% For example, in 2009, the pov-erty rate for married white familiesin Wisconsin was 2.3 percent. Butthe poverty rate for non-married 20%white families was ten timeshigher at 22.9 percent. 15% 10% 5% 2.3% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 12 • Marriage and Poverty in Wisconsin heritage.org
Non-Married Black Families Are Nearly Five Times More Likely to BePoor in Wisconsin In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORmarried black couples in Wiscon-sin was 9.2 percent, while the 50%poverty rate for non-married blackfamilies was about ﬁve times 42.9%higher at 42.9 percent. 40% 30% 20% 9.2% 10% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in Wisconsin heritage.org
Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Three Times More Likely to Be Poorin Wisconsin In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families in Wis-consin was 12.8 percent, while the 38.7% 40%poverty rate among non-marriedfamilies was three times higher at38.7 percent. 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 12.8% 10% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 14 • Marriage and Poverty in Wisconsin 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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