Marriage: The United States’ 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 the United States, 1929–2010 Throughout most of U.S. PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKhistory, out-of-wedlock childbear-ing was rare. 50% When the federal government’sWar on Poverty began in 1964, 40.8%only 6.8 percent of children in the 40%U.S. were born out of wedlock.However, over the next fourdecades, the number rose rapidly.By 2010, 40.8 percent of births in 30%the U.S. occurred outside of mar-riage. 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 the United States heritage.org
Death of Marriage in the United States, 1929–2010 The marital birth rate — the PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN TO MARRIED COUPLESpercentage of all births that occurto married parents — is the ﬂip 100%side of the out-of-wedlock birthrate. Through most of the 20th cen- 90%tury, marital births were the normin the U.S. In 1964, over 93 per-cent of births occurred to marriedcouples. 80% However, in the mid-1960s, themarital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2010, only 59.2 per- 70%cent of births in the U.S. occurredto married couples. 60% 59.2%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. 50%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 the United States heritage.org
In the United States, 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 40%high levels of child poverty in the 37.1%United States. 35% Some 37.1 percent of singlemothers with children are poor 30%compared to 6.8 percent of mar-ried couples with children. 25% Single-parent families withchildren are nearly six times more 20%likely to be poor than families inwhich the parents are married. 15% The higher poverty rate amongsingle-mother families is due both 10%to the lower education levels of the 6.8%mothers and the lower income dueto the absence of the father. 5% 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 the United States heritage.org
In the United States, One-Third of All Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Overall, married couples headabout two-thirds of families withchildren in the United States.One-third are single-parentfamilies. Unmarried Families 33.4% Married Families 66.6%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
In the United States, 71 Percent of Poor Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Among poor families withchildren in the United States, 71percent are not married. Bycontrast, only 29 percent of poorfamilies with children are headedby married couples. Married Families 29.2% Unmarried Families 70.8%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
In the United States, 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 7.7 percent ofout-of-wedlock births in the U.S. Underoccur to girls under age 18. Age 18: By contrast, some 75 percent of 7.7%out-of-wedlock births occur toyoung adult women between the Ageages of 18 and 29. 30–54: 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, 2008 NHSdata. Chart 6 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
Less-Educated Women Are More Likely to Give BirthOutside of Marriage Unwed childbearing occurs PERCENTAGE OF BIRTHS THAT ARE MARITALmost frequently among the OR OUT OF WEDLOCKwomen who will have the greatest 100% 8.1% Unmarrieddifﬁculty supporting children by 90% Mothersthemselves: those with low levelsof education. 42.0% 80% In the U.S., among women who 54.5%are high school dropouts, about 70% 65.2%65.2 percent of all births occur 60%outside marriage. Among women 91.9% Marriedwho have only a high school 50% Mothersdiploma, well over half of all birthsoccur outside marriage. By con- 40% 58.0%trast, among women with at least a 30%college degree, only 8.1 percent of 45.5%births are out of wedlock. 20% 34.8% 10% 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 the United States heritage.org
Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in ReducingChild Poverty in the United States 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- 58.8% 60%ents with the same education level. For example, in the U.S., the 50%poverty rate for a single motherwho has only a high school 40% 38.8%diploma is 38.8 percent, but thepoverty rate for a married couple 30% 28.7%family headed by an individual 24.0%who, similarly, has only a high 20%school degree is far lower at8.9 percent. 8.9% 10.6% 10% 4.6% On average, marriage drops the 1.8%poverty rate by about 76 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 the United States heritage.org
Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race in the United States Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries considerably by race. 100% In 2008, 40.6 percent of birthsin the U.S. occurred outside mar- 8.3% 90%riage. The rate was lowest amongnon-Hispanic whites. Among that 80%group nearly three in ten births 72.3%were non-marital. 70% Among Hispanics, over half(52.5 percent) of births were out 60% 52.5%of wedlock. Among blacks, nearly 50%three in every four births were tounmarried women (72.3 percent). 40.6% 40% 30% 28.6% 20% 10%Source: U.S. Department of Health and 0%Human Services, Centers for Disease All Races White Hispanic BlackControl and Prevention, 2008 NHS Non- Non-data. Hispanic Hispanic Chart 9 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing by Race in the United States,1931–2008 Historically, out-of-wedlock PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKchildbearing has been somewhatmore frequent among blacks than 100%among whites. However, prior tothe onset of the federal 90%government’s War on Poverty in 80% Black Non-1964, the rates for both whites andblacks were comparatively low. Hispanic 70% 72.3% In 1964, about one in thirty (3.4percent) white children was born 60%outside marriage. By 2008, the Hispanicnumber had risen to almost three 50% 52.5%in ten (28.6 percent). 40% In 1964, about one in four blackchildren (24.5 percent) were born White Non- 30% Hispanicoutside marriage. By 2008, the 28.6%number had risen to nearly three 20%in four (72.3 percent). 10%Sources: U.S. Government, U.S. Census 0%Bureau, and National Center for HealthStatistics. 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2008 Chart 10 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Birthsin the United States In the United States in 2008, ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHSsome 53.4 percent of all birthsoccurred to non-Hispanic whites,24.5 percent occurred to Hispan-ics, and 14.7 percent occurred toblack non-Hispanics. 53.4% White Non- 37.6% Because blacks and Hispanics Hispanicare more likely to have childrenwithout being married, theyaccount for a disproportionatelylarge share of all out-of-wedlockbirths. Even so, the largest numberof unwed births are to white non- 31.7%Hispanic women. Hispanic In the U.S. in 2008, 37.6 percent 24.5%of all non-marital births were tonon-Hispanic whites, 31.7 percentwere to Hispanic women, and 26.1 26.1% 14.7% Black Non-percent were to Hispanics. Hispanic 7.4% Asian/Other 4.6%Source: U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Note: Figures have been rounded. Chart 11 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
Non-Married White Families Are Seven Times More Likely to Be Poorin the United States Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for whites, blacks, and His-panics. 25% For example, in 2009, the pov- 22.0%erty rate for married white familiesin the U.S. was 3.2 percent. Butthe poverty rate for non-married 20%white families was seven timeshigher at 22 percent. 15% 10% 5% 3.2% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 12 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
Non-Married Black Families Are Five Times More Likely to Be Poorin the United States In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORmarried black couples in the U.S.was 7 percent, while the poverty 40%rate for non-married black familieswas ﬁve times higher at 35.6 35.6%percent. 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 7.0% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States heritage.org
Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Three Times More Likely to Be Poorin the United States In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families in theU.S. was 13.2 percent, while the 40% 37.9%poverty rate among non-marriedfamilies was about three timeshigher at 37.9 percent. 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 13.2% 10% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 14 • Marriage and Poverty in the United States 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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