Marriage:Washington, D.C.’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 Washington, D.C., 1929–2010 Throughout most of the history PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKof the District of Columbia, out-of-wedlock childbearing was 80%relatively uncommon. When the federal government’s 70%War on Poverty began in 1964,around one in four children in 60%Washington, D.C. were born out 54.8%of wedlock. However, over thenext four decades, the number 50%rose rapidly. By 2010, 54.8 percentof births in Washington, D.C. 40%occurred outside of marriage. 30%Note: Initiated by President LyndonJohnson in 1964, the War on Poverty 20%led 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. 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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Death of Marriage in Washington, D.C., 1929–2010 The marital birth rate — the PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN TO MARRIED COUPLESpercentage of all births that occur 100%to married parents — is the ﬂipside of the out-of-wedlock birthrate. 90% Through most of the 20th cen-tury, marital births were the norm 80%in Washington, D.C. In 1964, over74 percent of births occurred to 70%married couples. However, in the mid-1960s, the 60%marital birth rate began to fallsteadily. By 2010, only 45.2 per-cent of births in Washington, D.C. 50%occurred to married couples. 45.2% 40%Note: In any given year, the sum of theout-of-wedlock birth rate (Chart 1) 30%and the marital birth rate (Chart 2)equals 100 percent of all births. 20%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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
In Washington, D.C., Marriage Drops the Probability of Child Povertyby 90 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- 36.0%erty in Washington, D.C. 35% Some 36 percent of single moth-ers with children are poor com- 30%pared to 3.5 percent of marriedcouples with children. 25% Single-parent families withchildren are more than ten times 20%more likely to be poor than fami-lies in which the parents are mar-ried. 15% The higher poverty rate among 10%single-mother families is due bothto the lower education levels of 5% 3.5%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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
In Washington, D.C., Six in Ten Families with Children Are Not Married Overall, married couples headless than 40 percent of familieswith children in Washington, D.C.Over 60 percent are single-parentfamilies. Married Families Unmarried 38.3% Families 61.7%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 4 • Marriage and Poverty in Washington, D.C. heritage.org
In Washington, D.C., 94 Percent of Poor Families with ChildrenAre Not Married Among poor families with Marriedchildren in Washington, D.C., 94 Familiespercent are not married. By 6.1%contrast, only six percent of poorfamilies with children are headedby married couples. Unmarried Families 93.9%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 5 • Marriage and Poverty in Washington, D.C. heritage.org
In Washington, D.C., 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 7.9 percent ofout-of-wedlock births in Washing- Underton, D.C. occur to girls under age Age 18:18. 7.9% By contrast, some 70 percent ofout-of-wedlock births occur to Ageyoung adult women between the 30–54: Ageages of 18 and 29. 22.2% 18–19: 12.9% Age Age 25–29: 20–24: 25.1% 31.9%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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Less-Educated Women Are More Likely to Give Birth Outsideof 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 42.0% 80%are high school dropouts, about 65.2percent of all births occur outside 54.5% 70%marriage. Among women who have 65.2%only a high school diploma, well over 60% 91.9% Marriedhalf of all births occur outside mar- Mothersriage. By contrast, among women 50%with at least a college degree, only 40%8.1 percent of births are out of wed- 58.0%lock. 30% 45.5%Note: Specific data on out-of-wedlock 20%births and maternal education are not 34.8%available in Washington, D.C. However, the 10%pattern varies little between states. Wash-ington, D.C. data will be very similar to the 0%national data presented in this chart. 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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Both Marriage and Education Are Highly Effective in ReducingChild Poverty in Washington, D.C. 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- 59.5% 60%ents with the same education level. For example, in Washington, 50%D.C., the poverty rate for a single 42.5%mother who has only a high 40%school diploma is 42.5 percent, 31.3%but the poverty rate for a married 30%couple family headed by an indi-vidual who, similarly, has only a 20%high school degree is far lower at 14.6% 11.2% 9.2%11.2 percent. 10% 7.2% On average, marriage drops the 1.2%poverty rate by about 78 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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Unwed Birth Rates Vary Strongly by Race in Washington, D.C. Out-of-wedlock childbearing PERCENT OF BIRTHS THAT ARE OUT OF WEDLOCKvaries considerably by race. In 2008, 57.8 percent of births 100%in Washington D.C. occurred 8.3% 90%outside marriage. The rate waslowest among non-Hispanic 80% 79.1%whites. Within that group about 72.6%one in 15 births (7 percent) were 70%non-marital. 60% 57.8% Among Hispanics, nearly threein four births were out of wedlock. 50%Among blacks, nearly eight in tenbirths were to unmarried women 40%(79.1 percent). 30% 20% 10% 7.0%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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing Among Blacks in Washington, D.C.,1929–2008 PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK Between 1929 and 1950, aroundone in ﬁve black children in the 100%District of Columbia were bornoutside marriage. During the 90% Black1950s and early 1960s the rate rose (Includesslowly. 80% Black Hispanics) Following the onset of the Waron Poverty in 1964, the rate 70% Blackincreased dramatically. Ten years Non-later, in 1974, well over half the 60% Hispanicsblack births in the District werenon-marital. 50% By 1994, eight out of ten blackbirths in D.C. occurred outside 40%marriage. The rate has remained ator near that level up to the present. 30%Note: Beginning in 1996, the govern- 20%ment began counting black Hispanicbirths separately. This made little 10%difference in the black non-marital birthrate in D.C. 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 Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Growth of Unwed Childbearing Among Whites and Hispanicsin Washington, D.C., 1929–2008 Between 1929 and 1963, the unwed PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN BORN OUT OF WEDLOCKbirth rate among whites (both Hispanicand non-Hispanic) in Washington, D.C. 100%was generally less than 5 percent. In themid-1960s the rate increased quickly, 90%reaching 20 percent in 1968. Beginning in 1996, the government 80%began counting white Hispanic andwhite non-Hispanic births separately. Hispanic Since then, the Hispanic unwed birth 70%rate has risen rapidly. In 1996, 55.3percent of Hispanic births in the District 60%were non-marital. In 2008, the ﬁgurewas 72.6 percent. By contrast, the unwed birth rate 50%among white non-Hispanic women hasactually fallen, from 12 percent of births 40% Whitein 1996 to 7 percent in 2008. The (Includesdecline in unwed births among white 30% Hispanics)non-Hispanic is unusual and reﬂects thehigh socioeconomic status of mostwhite non-Hispanics living in D.C. 20%During the same period, in the rest ofthe nation, the unwed birth rate of white 10%non-Hispanics has risen signiﬁcantly. White Non-Hispanics 0%Sources: U.S. Government, U.S. CensusBureau, and National Center for Health 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2008Statistics. Chart 11 • Marriage and Poverty in Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Racial Composition of All Births and Out-of-Wedlock Birthsin Washington, D.C. ALL BIRTHS OUT-OF-WEDLOCK BIRTHS In Washington, D.C. in 2008,some 54.9 percent of all birthsoccurred to non-Hispanic blacks,25.9 percent occurred to non-Hispanic whites, and 16.5 percentoccurred to Hispanics. Because blacks and Hispanicsare more likely to have children 54.9% Black Non- 75.1%without being married, they Hispanicaccount for nearly all out-of-wedlock births in Washington,D.C. In Washington, D.C. in 2008,75.1 percent of all non-maritalbirths were to non-Hispanic black 25.9%women, 20.7 percent were toHispanic women, and only 3.1 White Non- 3.1%percent were to white non- HispanicHispanic women. 20.7% 16.5% HispanicSource: U.S. Department of Health and 2.7% Asian/Other 1.1%Human Services, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, 2008 NHSdata. Note: Figures have been rounded. Chart 12 • Marriage and Poverty in Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Non-Married Black Families Are Six Times More Likely to Be Poorin Washington, D.C. Marriage leads to lower poverty PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORrates for blacks, whites, and His-panics. 35% In 2009, the poverty rate formarried black couples in Washing- 29.8%ton, D.C. was 5.3 percent, while 30%the poverty rate for non-marriedblack families was about six times 25%higher at 29.8 percent. 20% 15% 10% 5.3% 5% 0%Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Married Families Non-Married FamiliesCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 13 • Marriage and Poverty in Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Non-Married White Families Are 13 Times More Likely to Be Poorin Washington, D.C. In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORmarried white families in Wash-ington, D.C. was 0.7 percent. But 10%the poverty rate for non-marriedwhite families was nearly 13 times 9% 8.8%higher at 8.8 percent. 8% 7% 6% 5% 4% 3% 2% 1% 0.7% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 14 • Marriage and Poverty in Washington, D.C. heritage.org
Non-Married Hispanic Families Are Twice as Likely to Be Poor inWashington, D.C. In 2009, the poverty rate for PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES THAT ARE POORHispanic married families inWashington, D.C. was 9.3 percent, 25%while the poverty rate amongnon-married families was over twotimes higher at 19.3 percent. 20% 19.3% 15% 10% 9.3% 5% 0% Married Families Non-Married FamiliesSource: U.S. Census Bureau, AmericanCommunity Survey, 2007–2009 data. Chart 15 • Marriage and Poverty in Washington, D.C. 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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