Marriage:Tennessee’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 Tennessee, 1929–2010 Throughout most of Tennessee’s PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKhistory, out-of-wedlock childbear-ing was rare. 50% When the federal government’s 44.1%War on Poverty began in 1964,only 10 percent of children in 40%Tennessee were born out of wed-lock. However, over the next fourdecades, the number rose rapidly.By 2010, 44.1 percent of births in 30%Tennessee 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 Tennessee heritage.org
Death of Marriage in Tennessee, 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 Tennessee. In 1964, 90 percentof births occurred to marriedcouples. 80% However, in the mid-1960s, themarital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2010, only 55.9 per-cent of births in Tennesseeoccurred to married couples. 60% 55.9%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 Tennessee heritage.org
In Tennessee, Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Povertyby 82 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 inTennessee. 43.5% Some 43.5 percent of single 40%mothers with children are poorcompared to 8.1 percent of mar-ried couples with children. Single-parent families with 30%children are more than ﬁve 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 8.1% 10%to the lower education levels ofthe mothers and the lower incomedue 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 Tennessee heritage.org
Over One-Third of All Families with Children in Tennessee AreNot Married Overall, married couples headslightly less than two-thirds offamilies with children inTennessee. Over one-third aresingle-parent families. Unmarried Families 35.6% Married Families 64.4%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee heritage.org
In Tennessee, 73 Percent of Poor Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Among poor families withchildren in Tennessee, aboutthree-quarters are not married. Bycontrast, only 27 percent of poorfamilies with children are headedby married couples. Married Families 27% Unmarried Families 73%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee heritage.org
In Tennessee, 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 8.6 percent ofout-of-wedlock births in Tennes- Undersee occur to girls under age 18. Age 18: By contrast, some 78 percent of 8.6%out-of-wedlock births occur to Ageyoung adult women between the 30–54:ages of 18 and 29. 13.2% Age 18–19: 16.9% Age 25–29: 21.3% Age 20–24: 40%Note: Figures have been rounded.Source: U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHS data. Chart 6 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee heritage.org
Less Educated Women Are More Likely to Give Birth Outsideof Marriage Unwed childbearing occurs PERCENTAGE OF BIRTHS THAT ARE MARITALmost frequently among the OR OUT OF WEDLOCKwomen who will have the greatest 100% 7.2% Unmarrieddifﬁculty supporting children by Mothersthemselves: those with low levels 90%of education. 38.6% 80% In Tennessee, among women 56.1%who are high school dropouts, 70% 92.8% Married 70.3% Mothersabout 70.3 percent of all births 60%occur outside marriage. Amongwomen who have only a high 50%school diploma, over 56 percent ofall births occur outside marriage. 40% 61.4%By contrast, among women with at 30%least a college degree, only 7.2 43.9%percent of births are out of wed- 20%lock. 29.7% 10% 0% High School High School Some College Mother’s Dropout Graduate College Graduate educationSource: U.S. Department of Health and (0–11 (12 (13–15 (16+ levelHuman Services, Centers for Disease Years) Years) Years) Years)Control and Prevention, 2008 NHS data. Chart 7 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee heritage.org
Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in ReducingChild Poverty in Tennessee 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 ARE POOR Married of the Head of Householdhouseholds headed by single 80%parents. This is true even whenthe married couple is compared to 70% 66.8%single parents with the same edu-cation level. 60% For example, in Tennessee, thepoverty rate for a single mother 50% 44.5%who has only a high school 40%diploma is 44.5 percent, but the 33.0%poverty rate for a married couple 30% 28.5%family headed by an individualwho, similarly, has only a high 20%school degree is far lower at 10.8% 10% 9.5%10.8 percent. 5.3% On average, marriage drops the 1.5% 0%poverty rate by about 75 percent High School High School Some Collegeamong families with the same Dropout Graduate College Graduateeducation level.Source: 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 Tennessee heritage.org
Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race in Tennessee Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries considerably by race. 78.2% 80% In 2008, 44.1 percent of birthsin Tennessee occurred outside 8.3%marriage. The rate was lowest 70%among non-Hispanic whites atabout one in three births (32.8 60%percent). Among Hispanics, over 53.7%half of births were out of wedlock. 50%Among blacks, almost eight in ten 44.1%births were to unmarried women(78.2 percent). 40% 32.8% 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 Tennessee heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing by Race in Tennessee, 1934–2008 Historically, out-of-wedlock PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKchildbearing has been somewhatmore frequent among blacks than 80% Black Non-among whites. However, prior to Hispanicthe onset of the federal 78.2% 70%government’s War on Poverty in1964, the rates for both whites andblacks were comparatively low. 60% Hispanic In 1964, one in thirty (3.2 per- 53.7%cent) white children were born 50%outside marriage. By 2008, thenumber had risen to about one in 40%three (32.8 percent). White Non- In 1964, about one in four black 30% Hispanicchildren (27.4 percent) were born 32.8%outside marriage. By 2008, the 20%number had risen to over three infour (78.2 percent). 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 Tennessee heritage.org
Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Birthsin Tennessee In Tennessee in 2008, some 67.4 ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHSpercent of all births occurred tonon-Hispanic whites, 21.2 percentoccurred to non-Hispanic blacks,and 9.3 percent occurred to His-panics. Because blacks and Hispanics 67.4% White Non- 50.1%are more likely to have children Hispanicwithout being married, theyaccount for disproportionatelylarger shares of all out-of-wedlockbirths. Even so, the largest numberof unwed births are to white non-Hispanic women. In Tennessee in 2008, 50.1percent of all non-marital births 37.6%were to non-Hispanic whites, 37.6 Black Non- 21.2% Hispanicpercent were to black non-Hispanic women, and 11.4 percentwere to Hispanics. 9.3% Hispanic 11.4%Source: U.S. Department of Health and 2.1% Asian/Other 1%Human Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHS data. Note: Figures have been rounded. Chart 11 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee heritage.org
Non-Married White Families Are Nearly Six Times More Likelyto Be Poor in Tennessee Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for whites, blacks, and His-panics. 29.5% 30% For example, in 2009, the pov-erty rate for married white familiesin Tennessee was 5.4 percent. But 25%the poverty rate for non-marriedwhite families was about six timeshigher at 29.5 percent 20% 15% 10% 5.4% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 12 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee heritage.org
Non-Married Black Families Are Nearly Six Times More Likelyto Be Poor in Tennessee In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORmarried black couples in Tennes-see was 7.5 percent, while the 50%poverty rate for non-married blackfamilies was about six timeshigher at 41.3 percent. 41.3% 40% 30% 20% 10% 7.5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee heritage.org
Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Three Times More Likely to Be Poorin Tennessee In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families in Ten-nessee was 20.8 percent, while the 60%poverty rate among non-marriedfamilies was almost three times 51.2%higher at 51.2 percent. 50% 40% 30% 20.8% 20% 10% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 14 • Marriage and Poverty in Tennessee 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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