The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that encouraging maternal education and healthy marriage before having children will bring freedom from poverty. The following information on the connection between maternal education, healthy marriage, and child poverty is contained in a thirteen-page report published on August 2, 2002, by Robert Rector and Kirk Johnson, Ph.D., Center for Data Analysis Report #02-05. The information in this report is astounding. You can find the report with wonderful graphs and extensive details at heritage.org.
In the continuing effort called the War on Poverty, the welfare reform of 1996 set four principal goals; two of those goals were to increase married two-parent families and to reduce out-of-wedlock childbearing. President George W. Bush advanced welfare reform proposals, and the House of Representatives enacted H.R. 4737, which included specific policies to encourage healthy marriages before having children. Those who supported this approach argued that child well-being as well as a reduction in child poverty would result from an increase in healthy marriages. Those who argued against this proposal contended that there is little or no connection between marriage and poverty. They argued that increasing maternal education would have a greater effect on child poverty than focusing on increasing healthy marriages.
The Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report (CDA) examined the two sides of the policy debate by examining two questions: Is marriage effective in reducing child poverty? What is the comparative effect of marriage and maternal education in combating child poverty? The following findings came from the CDA analysis using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY): 1) "Marriage plays a powerful role in lifting children out of poverty." 2) "While both marriage and maternal education play a positive role in alleviating child poverty, in general, stable marriage has a far stronger effect than does maternal schooling."
"Maternal education without marriage is generally ineffective in reducing child poverty. The poverty levels of children raised by never-married mothers remain high even if the mother has a high-school or college degree." The following facts were revealed by the analysis: 1) "On average, a child raised by a never-married mother is nine times more likely to live in poverty than a child born and raised by two parents in an intact marriage." 2) "Overall, nearly 80 percent of long-term child poverty occurs to children raised in some type of broken family or by a parent who never married." 3) "Raising a child in an intact marriage is roughly two and a half times more effective than adding four years to a mother's education in reducing child poverty." 4) "On average, a child raised by a never-married mother with a four-year college degree is three and a half times more likely to be poor than is a child born and raised in an intact married family by a mother who has only a high school education." 5) "Children raised in intact married families whose mothers are high-school dropouts spend about the same amount of time in poverty as children raised by never-married mothers who have a four-year college degree." 6) "Marriage has a significant effect in reducing child poverty, even if the marriage does not last throughout a boy's or girl's entire childhood. Being raised in a married two-parent family for just half of one's childhood reduces poverty as much as adding four years to a mother's education does."
"In order to evaluate the effects of marriage and education on child poverty, the CDA used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The NLSY is a nationally representative sample of young people who were between the ages of 14 and 22 at the end of 1978. Data on this cohort of individuals have been collected continuously from 1979 to 2000, providing detailed information on social and economic characteristics such as marriage, divorce, fertility, income, and poverty among Americans throughout the past three decades.
"In addition, the NLSY collected data on children born to individuals in the original sample. These children represent a good cross-section of children born in the United States within the past three decades.
"Family income data in the NLSY allow us to determine the number of years these children have lived in poverty. Dividing the number of years a child has lived in poverty by the number of years the child has been alive produces the `percentage of time in poverty,' or the percentage of a child's life that has been spent in poverty. The `percentage of time in poverty" is the key poverty measure used throughout this paper."
Using the birth, marriage, and divorce data found in the NLSY, the children were put in one of four groups: 1) "In-wedlock/intact marriage - children born inside marriage whose parents have remained together and never divorced." 2) "In-wedlock/subsequent divorce - children born to married parents who subsequently divorced." 3) "Out-of-wedlock/subsequent marriage - children born outside marriage whose mothers have subsequently married." 4) "Out-of-wedlock/never married - children born outside of marriage whose mothers have never married."
The bottom line or conclusion of the analysis is as follows: "Reducing child poverty is an important public policy goal. This CDA Report builds on previous academic research that showed how child poverty would have been significantly lower if marriage among women of childbearing age had not declined over the past few decades. It also confirms other research that shows that 80 percent of poor single-parent families would escape from poverty if the single parents were married.
"The current analysis indicates that, operating together, both marriage and maternal education can play a significant role in reducing child poverty. The most effective public policy to reduce child poverty would encourage young women both to complete high school and enter into a healthy marriage before they have children. By contrast, a policy that focuses on maternal education exclusively and is indifferent or hostile to marriage is not likely to be successful."
According to this report, our nation can become stronger when we focus on education and marriage to lessen child poverty. Parents and other adults are responsible for teaching by word and by example that education and healthy marriage are both important in becoming financially stable. Young women especially should be counseled to at least graduate from high school and get married before becoming pregnant. Families, communities and nations can become stronger when there is a focus on strengthening marriage.