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Marriage is the greatest weapon against child poverty

The Heritage Foundation in America has claimed that the collapse of marriage, along with a dramatic rise in births to single women, is the most important cause of childhood poverty but government policy doesn’t reflect that reality.

According to a special report released by the think tank, nearly three out of four poor families with children in America are headed by single parents. When a child’s father is married to his mother, however, the probability of the child living in poverty drops by 82%.

“Policymakers on the state and national levels recognize that education reduces poverty, but they’re largely unaware that marriage is an equally strong anti-poverty weapon,” said Robert Rector, senior research fellow in domestic policy at the Washington think tank.

The rate of births to unmarried women -- now four out of every ten babies overall -- has soared since the mid-1960s.

Births outside marriage mostly are to less-educated women – sadly, those with the least ability to support children, the Heritage report notes. Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of births to women who are high school dropouts are outside marriage. Among college graduates, it’s 8%.

The report also found, however, that most unmarried parents look favorably on marriage and called for new policies to be developed that build on these attitudes, specifically:

  • Provide facts to at-risk youth about the value of marriage.
  • Connect low-income couples with community resources that teach skills they need to build lasting marriages before having children.
  • Reform the welfare system to encourage rather than discourage and penalise marriage.


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