Marriage: 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 Virginia, 1929–2010 Throughout most of Virginia’s PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKhistory, out-of-wedlock childbear-ing was rare. 40% When the federal government’s 35.5%War on Poverty began in 1964, 35%only 8.8 percent of children inVirginia were born out of wedlock.However, over the next four 30%decades, the number rose rapidly.By 2010, over one in three birthsin Virginia occurred outside of 25%marriage. 20%Note: Initiated by President Lyndon 15%Johnson in 1963, the War on Povertyled to the creation of more than threedozen welfare programs to aid poorpersons. Government has spent $16.7 10%trillion on means-tested aid to the poorsince 1964. 5%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 Virginia heritage.org
Death of Marriage in 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 Virginia. In 1964, more than 91 90%percent of births occurred tomarried couples. However, in the mid-1960s, themarital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2010, only 64.5 per- 80%cent of births in Virginia occurredto 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) 64.5%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 Virginia heritage.org
In Virginia, Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Povertyby 86 Percent The rapid rise in out-of- PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN THAT ARE POORwedlock childbearing is a major 40%cause of high levels of child pov-erty in Virginia. Some 30.4 percent of single 30.4%mothers with children were poor 30%compared to 4.4 percent of mar-ried couples with children. Single-parent families withchildren are about seven times 20%more likely to be poor than fami-lies in which the parents are mar-ried. The higher poverty rate among 10%single-mother families is due bothto the lower education levels of 4.4%the 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 Virginia heritage.org
In Virginia, Nearly One-Third of All Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Overall, married couples headtwo-thirds of families withchildren in Virginia. Nearlyone-third are single-parentfamilies. Unmarried Families 31.3% Married Families 68.7%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in Virginia heritage.org
In Virginia, 74 Percent of Poor Families with Children Are Not Married Among poor families withchildren in Virginia, 74 percent arenot married. By contrast, onlyone-quarter of poor families withchildren are headed by married Marriedcouples. Families 26.5% Unmarried Families 73.5%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in Virginia heritage.org
In Virginia, 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 6.1 percent ofout-of-wedlock births in Virginia Underoccur to girls under age 18. Age 18: 6.1% By contrast, some 77 percent ofout-of-wedlock births occur to Ageyoung adult women between the 30–54:ages of 18 and 29. Age 17.3% 18–19: 14.0% Age 25–29: 23.7% Age 20–24: 38.9%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 Virginia 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% 8.1% Unmarriedporting children by themselves: those 90% Motherswith low levels of education. In the U.S., among women who are 42.0% 80%high school dropouts, about 65.2 54.5%percent of all births occur outside 70% 65.2%marriage. Among women who have 60%only a high school diploma, well over 91.9%half of all births occur outside mar- 50% Marriedriage. By contrast, among women Motherswith at least a college degree, only 8.1 40% 58.0%percent of births are out of wedlock. 30% 45.5%Note: Specific data on out-of-wedlock 20% 34.8%births and maternal education are notavailable in Virginia. However, the pattern 10%varies little between states.Virginia data willbe very similar to the national data 0%presented in this chart. High School High School Some College Mother’s Dropout Graduate College Graduate educationSource: U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, Centers for Disease (0–11 (12 (13–15 (16+ levelControl and Prevention, 2008 NHS data. Years) Years) Years) Years) Chart 7 • Marriage and Poverty in Virginia heritage.org
Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in ReducingChild Poverty in 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. 60%This is true even when the marriedcouple is compared to single par- 52.7%ents with the same education level. 50% For example, in Virginia, thepoverty rate for a single mother 40%who has only a high school 32.5%diploma is 32.5 percent, but the 30%poverty rate for a married couple 22.2%family headed by an individualwho, similarly, has only a high 20% 17.8%school degree is far lower at 10.3%6.2 percent. 10% 6.2% On average, marriage drops the 3.1% 1.3%poverty rate by around 80 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 Virginia heritage.org
Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race in Virginia Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries considerably by race. 80% In 2008, more than one in threebirths (35.8 percent) in Virginia 8.3%occurred outside marriage. The 70% 66.8%rate was lowest among non-Hispanic whites at nearly one in 60%four births (23.9 percent). AmongHispanics, over half of births were 51.4% 50%out-of-wedlock. Among blacks,over two in every three births wereto unmarried women (66.8 per- 40% 35.8%cent). 30% 23.9% 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 Virginia heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing by Race in Virginia, 1929–2008 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% 66.8%government’s War on Poverty in1964, the rates for both whites and 60%blacks were comparatively low. Hispanic In 1964, around one in thirty 51.4% 50%(3.2 percent) white children wereborn outside marriage. By 2008,the number had risen to nearly 40%than one in four (23.9 percent). In 1964, over one in four black 30% White Non-children (26.2 percent) were born Hispanicoutside marriage. By 2008, the 23.9% 20%number had risen to two-thirds(66.8 percent). 10%Note: No data is available for 1979. 0%Sources: 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 Virginia heritage.org
Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Births in Virginia In Virginia in 2008, some 57.6 ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHSpercent of all births (both maritaland non-marital) occurred tonon-Hispanic whites, 13.4 percentoccurred to Hispanics, and 21.8percent to non-Hispanic blacks. Because black and Hispanic 57.6% White Non- 38.4%people are more likely to have Hispanicchildren without being married, adisproportionate share of all out-of-wedlock births occur to thosegroups. Nonetheless, the largestnumber of out-of-wedlock birthsstill occur to white non-Hispanic 40.6%women. Black Non- In Virginia in 2008, 38.4 percent 21.8% Hispanicof all non-marital births were tonon-Hispanic whites, 19.2 percentwere to Hispanics, and 40.6 per- 13.4% Hispaniccent were to black non-Hispanic 19.2%women. 7.2% 1.8% Asian/OtherSource: 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 Virginia heritage.org
Non-Married White Families Are Nearly Seven Times More Likelyto Be Poor in Virginia Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for whites, blacks, and His-panics in Virginia. 25% For example, in 2009, the pov- 22.0%erty rate for married white familiesin Virginia was 3.2 percent. Butthe poverty rate for non-married 20%white families was nearly seventimes higher 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 Virginia heritage.org
Non-Married Black Families Are Five Times More Likely to Be Poorin Virginia In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORmarried black couples in Virginiawas 7 percent, while the poverty 40%rate for non-married black families 35.6%was ﬁve times higher at 35.6percent. 30% 20% 10% 7.0% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in Virginia heritage.org
Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Nearly Three Times More Likelyto Be Poor in Virginia In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families inVirginia was 13.2 percent, while 40% 37.9%the poverty rate among non-married families was nearly threetimes higher 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 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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