In past Viewpoints when I have talked about poverty, I usually point to the importance of marriage and family. In some of my Viewpoints, I even quote from William Galston, who served in the Clinton administration. He talks about how important it is for young people to graduate from high school and to wait to have children until they get married.
In a recent op-ed he put it this way: “Want to know the best poverty cure? Get married. Single parenthood hurts all children, and black children bear the greatest brunt of single parenthood’s harms.”
Education is important. Among black women with a bachelor’s degree or more, the ever-married rate is 71 percent. For those without a high-school diploma, it in only 56 percent. Race does matter in these statistics since the percentages for black women are lower than for white women.
He cites other startling differences. “Consider that 71 percent of African-American infants are born to unmarried women, compared with 29 percent for white women.” Having a child does not encourage couples to get married. The father may leave, or the couple may choose to live together.
Galston points out that cohabitation is not a replacement for marriage. Cohabiting couples only stay together for about 18 months on average. Most children see their parents break up before their teen years.
It turns out that family instability harms all children, but some are affected negatively more than others. Boys, for example, fare worse then girls. And African-American boys fare the worst. Many of the problems they have in school are due to behavioral issues such as truancy and classroom disruption. This is one of the major reasons for the significant difference in boy-girl high-school graduation rates.
Galston cites many studies that all remind us that children reared in an intact marriage with the biological father and mother do much better. Marriage is the best cure for poverty.