I have often enjoyed this little tidbit: "Former Clinton advisor William Galston sums up the matter this way: you need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty--finish high school, marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of the families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor."

In addition: "Ohio State economics professor Jay Zagorsky suggests different factors: "Staying married, not getting divorced, thinking about savings."

It makes you wonder, then, what proportion of the billions (if not trillions) of dollars spent fighting poverty were directed toward these factors. In other words, assuming a 92% long-term success rate in avoiding poverty, couldn't an argument be made that, from a strategic viewpoint, all anti-poverty programs should be directed to these factors?


WolfPack said...

Unless of course the personality traits that make you an economic failure are the same ones that cause divorce, early marriage and high school dropouts. I do agree though that most of the problem is unfixable after the person turns 20 years old and that the money spent to fix the problem should be spent on kids. Propping up the hallowed single mom crowd after she's messed up her and her children's lives is not a good return on our investment. Reducing the consequences for poor life choices re-enforces to the kids that poor choices don't matter, "Mom did it and we got by".

I thought the comment

"divorce and unwed motherhood are what economists call "luxury goods." One hundred years ago, only rich people could afford them, but now most people can"

summed it up well. The greatest effect of our current social welfare system is to drop the price point for these destructive behaviors.

free thought said...

I think wp has a good point. The same things that lead people to the early kids, marriage, and dropping out of school, lead to poverty. Those are just stops along the way.

But, one part could be more of a trigger, having kids early. Kids who have babies are more likely to drop out of school, get married, and have dead end jobs (or no jobs). Perhaps, if we could help more in preventing youth pregnancy, we could stop the cycle.

Then again, most kids learn from their parents. The only way to prevent them having bad role models is to take them out of their homes.

Anonymous said...

QUOTES: Family and Marriage

1) The family is the building block of society. When marriages and families are healthy, communities thrive; when marriages break down, communities break down.

2) A Portrait of Family and Religion in America - Study illustrating the intact family that worships weekly is the greatest generator of human and social goods and least generator of social ills, and that the broken family that does not worship is the greatest generator of social ills and the least generator of social goods.

Perhaps a comparison of faith-based social service organizations vs. bureacratic-secular organizations would shed a different light on the subject?

Anonymous said...

"luxury goods"...

This Marriage Gap is also interesting.

We are becoming a nation of separate and unequal families that threatens to last into the foreseeable future. On the one hand, well-educated women make more money. They get married, only then have their children, and raise them with their husbands. Those children are more likely to grow up to be well-adjust­ed, to do well in school, to go to college, to marry and only then have children. On the other hand, we have low-income women raising children alone who are more likely to be low-income, to drop out of school or, if they do make it to college, go to a less elite col­lege, and to become single parents themselves.

Marriage, I think you can argue when you look at the numbers, now poses an even larger social divide than race. As I said, we've been having the wrong conversation about marriage.

GeeGuy said...

Not to sound too stupid but what, then, is the right conversation about marriage?

Anonymous said...

Like you said in the beginning Geeguy..."what proportion of the billions (if not trillions) of dollars spent fighting poverty were directed toward these factors?"

Ms. Hymowitz notes (emphasis added):

"...what our out-of-wedlock birth rate means is not that people don't care about marriage; it's that they see marriage as simply a committed adult love relationship and not an arrangement for rearing children. You may want to get married, but that doesn't mean you want to have children with the guy.

In other words, Americans took one of the most fundamental messages of the marriage program— that children should be born and raised by their two parents—and threw it into the dustbin of history."

How are social service organizations building cultural, religious and social values to uphold, preserve and defend the institution of marriage?

What effective measures to strengthen the stability of marriage are being encouraged?

What reaffirmations of Commitments to the Family are these social services promoting?