Marriage Called Key to Fighting Poverty: Study Cites Links to Divorce, Low Income

By Wetzstein, Cheryl | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 11, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Marriage Called Key to Fighting Poverty: Study Cites Links to Divorce, Low Income


Wetzstein, Cheryl, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The underlying cause of poverty is not economics or education but the absence or presence of marriage, asserts a report released today by the Heritage Foundation.

Divorced and unwed parents work less, earn less and have lower levels of education than married couples, policy analyst Patrick F. Fagan says in a report linking family formation and prosperity.

Broken families also "pass the prospect of meager incomes and family instability onto their children, making the effects intergenerational," he says.

The benefits of marriage are so tangible, Mr. Fagan adds, that by the time people reach their 50s, married couples typically have $100,000 more than divorced or never-married people.

He recommends that governments eliminate tax policies that penalize married couples - especially low-income couples. He also calls for more research on the effects of marriage on children and family income, and an overhaul of the way the government collects marriage and divorce data.

Since 1996, due to budget cuts, the National Center for Health Statistics has stopped compiling detailed data on marriage and divorce.

This means the country is "flying blind" on family data, says Mr. Fagan, who says an effort is underway in Congress to correct the problem.

Mr. Fagan's conclusion that marriage is the most reliable way to avoid poverty has been reached before. Census Bureau and other data have long shown that married couples are the least likely to live in poverty while single mothers are the most likely to be poor.

But, until the 1996 welfare reform law came along, promoting marriage was rarely mentioned as an anti-poverty strategy.

This is because poverty is widely believed to be caused by such external factors as urban or rural blight, mediocre education, stagnant wages, unemployment and lack of health and social services.

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