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Marriage Makes Children More Likely to Succeed

John on March 24, 2008 at 10:53 pm

Scott at Magic Statistics reports on a study linking out of wedlock births to poverty. He links to this Slate piece:

For 10 years, the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study at Princeton University has followed the families of 5,000 children, three-quarters born to unwed parents. According to the research, most of these parents, both women and men, said they wanted to get married—and to each other. But they somehow feel this mutual decision is beyond their power to make. And by not making it, the forces of inertia start pulling them apart. Five years after their children’s births, only 16 percent of the couples had married, and 60 percent had split.

Of course it’s the children of irresponsible adults who suffer the most damage:

Having unmarried parents can be devastating for children who start out with no cushion in life. In 1999 congressional testimony, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution said that the increase in single-parent families—mostly due to unwed motherhood in the past few decades—”can account for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970.” A recent study found that the stress of early childhood poverty can literally damage developing brains.

Over time, patterns begin to reinforce themselves, creating a marriage/class distinction:

The Economist cites statistics that show among college-educated women married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5 percent were divorced 10 years later. Among those with a high-school education or less who married in those same years, about 40 percent were divorced after a decade…Only 4 percent of college graduates have children out of wedlock.

Scott concludes his post with a sentiment I can’t improve upon:

[I]f Western nations are serious about tackling poverty and related social pathologies, we must stop pretending that family arrangements are irrelevant to public policy.  Governments should actively encourage stable families headed by two biological parents married to each other and discourage other child-rearing situations.

Well said. Let’s see Barack Obama (who has first hand experience with a fatherless home) say that. Then I’ll be impressed with him.

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Category: Marriage & Family |

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