Marriage:Alabama’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 Alabama, 1929–2010 Throughout most of Alabama’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, 41.9%only 12 percent of children in 40%Alabama were born out of wed-lock. However, over the next fourdecades, the number rose rapidly.By 2010, over four in ten births in 30%Alabama occurred outside ofmarriage. 20%Note: Initiated by President LyndonJohnson in 1963, 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 Alabama heritage.org
Death of Marriage in Alabama, 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 norm 90%in Alabama. In 1964, more than88 percent of births occurred tomarried couples. However, in the mid-1960s, 80%the marital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2010, only 58.1 per-cent of births in Alabama occurredto married couples. 70% 60%Note: In any given year, the sum of theout-of-wedlock birth rate (Chart 1) 58.1%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 Alabama heritage.org
In Alabama, Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Povertyby 83 Percent The rapid rise in out-of- PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN THAT ARE POORwedlock childbearing is a major 50%cause of high levels of child pov- 45.1%erty in Alabama. Some 45.1 percent of single 40%mothers with children were poorcompared to 7.6 percent of mar-ried couples with children. Single-parent families with 30%children are about six times morelikely to be poor than families inwhich the parents are married. 20% The higher poverty rate amongsingle-mother families is due bothto the lower education levels of 10% 7.6%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 Alabama heritage.org
In Alabama, Over One-Third of All Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Overall, married couples headless than two-thirds of familieswith children in Alabama. Wellover one-third are single-parentfamilies. Unmarried Families 37.4% Married Families 62.6%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in Alabama heritage.org
In Alabama, 76 Percent of Poor Families with Children Are Not Married Among poor families withchildren in Alabama, 76 percentare not married. By contrast, onlyone-quarter of poor families withchildren are headed by married Marriedcouples. Families 24% Unmarried Families 76%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in Alabama heritage.org
In Alabama, 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 9.4 percent ofout-of-wedlock births in Alabama Underoccur to girls under age 18. Age 18: By contrast, some 79 percent of 9.4%out-of-wedlock births occur to Ageyoung adult women between the 30–54:ages of 18 and 29. 12.0% Age 18–19: Age 17.1% 25–29: 20.9% 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 Alabama 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-wedlockbirths and maternal education are not 20%available in Alabama. However, the 34.8%pattern varies little between states. 10%Alabama data will be very similar to thenational 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 Alabama heritage.org
Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in ReducingChild Poverty in Alabama 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 Alabama, thepoverty rate for a single mother 50% 49.8%who has only a high schooldiploma is 49.8 percent, but the 40% 37.0%poverty rate for a married couplefamily headed by an individual 30% 26.9%who, similarly, has only a highschool degree is far lower at 9.7 20%percent. 9.7% 10.9% 10% 5.1% On average, marriage drops the 1.5%poverty rate by about 79 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 Alabama heritage.org
Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race in Alabama Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries considerably by race. 80% In 2008, four in ten births (39.9 8.3% 72.9%percent) in Alabama occurredoutside marriage. The rate was 70%lowest among Hispanics at nearlyone in four births (24.1 percent). 60%Among non-Hispanic whites, wellover one-quarter of births were 50%out-of-wedlock. Among blacks,over seven in every ten births were 39.9%to unmarried women (72.9 per- 40%cent). 30% 25.6% 24.1% 20% 10% 0%Source: U.S. Department of Health and All Races White Hispanic BlackHuman Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHS Non- Non-data. Hispanic Hispanic Chart 9 • Marriage and Poverty in Alabama heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing by Race in Alabama, 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%government’s War on Poverty in 72.9%1964, the rates for both whites andblacks were comparatively low. 60% In 1964, one out of ﬁfty, or 2percent of white children, were 50%born outside marriage. By 2008,the number had risen to over one 40%in four (25.6 percent). In 1964, three in ten black 30% White Non-children (29.5 percent) were born Hispanicoutside marriage. By 2008, the 25.6%number had risen to over seven in 20%ten (72.9 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 Alabama heritage.org
Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Births in Alabama In Alabama in 2008, some 59.1percent of all births (both maritaland non-marital) occurred to ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHSnon-Hispanic whites, 30.9 percentto non-Hispanic blacks, and 8.3percent occurred to Hispanics. Because black and Hispanicpeople are more likely to have 37.9% White Non-children without being married, a Hispanicdisproportionate share of all out- 59.1%of-wedlock births occur to thosegroups. Nonetheless, the largestnumber of out-of-wedlock birthsstill occur to white non-Hispanicwomen In Alabama in 2008, 37.9 per- 56.3%cent of all non-marital births were Black Non-to non-Hispanic whites, 56.3 Hispanicpercent were to black non- 30.9%Hispanic women, and 5 percentwere to Hispanics. Hispanic 8.3%Source: U.S. Department of Health and 1.7% Asian/Other 5.0% 0.8%Human Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Note: Figures have been rounded. Chart 11 • Marriage and Poverty in Alabama heritage.org
Non-Married White Families Are Six Times More Likely to Be Poorin Alabama Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for whites, blacks, and His-panics in Alabama. 30% For example, in 2009, the pov- 26.5%erty rate for married white familiesin Alabama was 4.5 percent. But 25%the poverty rate for non-marriedwhite families was nearly six timeshigher at 26.5 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 Alabama heritage.org
Non-Married Black Families Are Five Times More Likely to Be Poorin Alabama In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORmarried black couples in Alabamawas 8.1 percent, while the poverty 50%rate for non-married black familieswas ﬁve times higher at 43.1 45% 43.1%percent. 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 8.1% 5% 0%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Married Families Non-Married FamiliesCommunity Survey, 2007– 2009 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in Alabama heritage.org
Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Twice as Likely to Be Poorin Alabama In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families in Ala-bama was 22.7 percent, while the 60%poverty rate among non-marriedfamilies was two times higher at 50.4%50.4 percent. 50% 40% 30% 22.7% 20% 10% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 14 • Marriage and Poverty in Alabama 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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