Marriage Protects Against Childhood Poverty

I found a report today about the connection between marriage and childhood poverty.  As you might expect, the report highlighted facts and commentary about how married families experience less poverty.

That conclusion may seem somewhat obvious, but I’ll add more here.  This outcome seems to be larger than the sum of its parts when I think about it.  Obviously, people often save money when they share or combine their expenses.  Two households are usually more expensive than just one.

The other factor, in my opinion, is that both parents have a lot at stake to make things work for everyone.  The continuous financial security implies that on some level, the parents’ relationship is harmonious enough to endure.  If the marriage endures and is satisfactory to both, they may be even more likely to do whatever it takes to keep their financial boat afloat. Parents would be more likely to make more secure job choices and stay more continuously employed when they have a marriage and household to support.

People of all financial levels divorce and separate, even when it can seriously affect their bottom line.  But I see the mutual buy-in of both parents as being a big factor in off-setting the poverty rate.  Marriage and money are closely tied, and I think it can be more difficult to keep kids from suffering financially with separate households.

Children born to unmarried parents are most likely to be in poverty and to use government funding programs.  This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s easy to see how a single bread winner might have more trouble making ends meet (especially if they have little or no support from the other parent).

Here’s an interesting statistic from this report.  Just 5.8%  of  married families were in poverty in the United States during 2009.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t say exactly how many families that is.  And don’t misunderstand – this article isn’t meant to discount the plight of those families.  It’s meant to highlight the protective nature of marriage against childhood poverty, and to consider the reasons for this.  Discussing family poverty could probably be a series of longer articles for another time.

I’d be interested in hearing from you readers on this topic.  It can be somewhat controversial since many parents are divorced, remarried, or single.  Please share your thoughts!

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