Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Last week Bush adviser and marriage cheerleader Ron Haskins spoke to the Connecticut Association for Human Services about the importance of marriage to reduce poverty. He also broke away from other conservatives and said that Gay couples should be allowed to marry as well.

From the article:

"If you are concerned about children, then children will have a better chance in a married-couple family," Haskins said. "There are advantages to children living in a married-couple family," Haskins said. "And government cannot make up that difference."

Haskins told his audience that the "bully pulpit" - politicians, policy-makers and other opinion-formers must stress the case that marriage is one of the surest means of furthering the interests of poor children. He did not press for any specific governmental policies.

Notably, Haskins said that his theory on the benefits of marriage includes gay couples, an admitted break from the position held by many conservative Republicans. Creating jobs, providing support for low-income parents entering the workforce and expanding quality preschool programs are also crucial in helping improve the lives of impoverished families and children over the long term, Haskins said.

Also speaking was Jodie Levin-Epstein another expert and Democrat with a different take on how to reduce poverty.

Levin-Epstein said putting money into the hands of low-income parents through an earned income tax credit also helps. She said existing research in the United Kingdom, where officials are trying to eradicate poverty by 2020, shows that low-income families do not use the additional money for alcohol or tobacco as some might believe, but for work-related costs such as improving their transportation, buying a phone or getting better food for their kids.

Levin-Epstein, a Democrat, said her main concern about advocating marriage is when it becomes a matter of government policy. She said there are also studies that show children of couples who divorce are sometimes worse off than those in single-parent households because of the resulting emotional turmoil and other issues. Stability and support in a two parent home is key, she said.

It should be noted that while Haskins was invited to speak, promoting marriage is not on the organization's 2007 agenda.

We've discussed how to battle poverty before, but I don't recall promotion of marriage being mentioned as a solution. Personally I think any state money to combat poverty would be better spent on job training, child care, health care, counseling, education etc. Promotion of marriage wouldn't even make my top ten list. What's your take?

Poitras, Colin. "Expert Espouses Marriage To Reduce Poverty". Hartford Courant. 11/29/06


Genghis Conn said...

A May 2006 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that marriage in and of itself doesn't provide much of a benefit. Obviously a household with two income-earners is going to do better economically than a household with one. But the study says that cohabitating partners can do just as well, and that marriage of partners seems to confer more benefits on white kids than others. Here is the author's abstract:

Increasingly, children are living with cohabiting parents. Prior work on the material well-being of children living in cohabiting families is extended by including the biological relationship of children to adults, examining the racial and ethnic variations, and investigating the multiple indicators of material well-being. We draw on the 1999 National Survey of America’s Families (N = 34,509). Our findings suggest that children can potentially benefit from living with a cohabiting partner whose resources are shared with family members. Although children living with married rather than cohabiting parents fare better in terms of material well-being, this advantage is accounted for by race and ethnic group and parents’ education. Marriage appears to provide more material advantages to White children than to Black or Latino children.

Manning, Wendy D.; Brown, Susan. "Children’s Economic Well-Being in Married and Cohabiting Parent Families." Journal of Marriage & Family May 2006, Vol. 68 Issue 2, p345-362.

Genghis Conn said...

Basically, issues of children and poverty are way, way more complicated than just whether parents or partners are married or not. The White House is probably just throwing a bone to social conservatives.

cgg said...

What the Courant article doesn't say, but other pieces on Bush's marriage fixation have pointed out is that by people they mean women. The idea is that marriage is the best way for women to get themselves out of poverty.

Gabe said...

I just wanted to add that the monies mentioned by CGG, if allocated, would likely help increase marriage as a byproduct of reducing poverty (rather than as the other way around), because not having a stable financial situation (i.e. a better job) can prevent marriages and those programs are designed to provide better jobs and more stable financial situations.

Anonymous said...

From an older letter to the editor in the Register:

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, in his Forum column "Marriage, work key to child poverty," confuses correlation with causation when he stated that children are poor because "they are raised without a father in the home."

To be sure, two incomes are better than one. But with more than a third of U.S. families being single-parent families, there are many children in all economic strata who are being raised without a father.

Child poverty rates have remained virtually unchanged in the last decade although there has been an increase in single-parent families. The 1996 reforms in welfare intended to reduce out-of-wedlock births have not lowered poverty rates. Diverting money from job training, education and child care subsidies to instead encourage marriage is a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

Rector fails to explain why parents don’t work: Are there child care, transportation, lack of job skills, health, disabilities, or other issues that prevent them from working? Job training, education and reducing other barriers will do more to alleviate poverty for these families.

Rector also ignores a fundamental issue. The current poverty level is by all accounts obsolete. The National Academy of Sciences has estimated that updating the poverty standard would increase the level by as much as 45 percent.

Genghis Conn said...

This academic article suggests that while there is something of a benefit, it's been overstated.

cgg said...

Genghis, are you suggesting that Cinderella doesn't count as an academic study on the benefits of marriage? :)

Genghis Conn said...

No, but it's been used in several dissertations on massive pumpkin growth.

Anonymous said...

How about getting the government out of marriage entirely? If a couple wants to make a public display of their union, wether in a church, on a mountaintop, wherever, so be it, why does the state need to be involved? Why does anyone want or need the state to validate their relationship? DNA testing can establish paternity, and prenuptial agreements take care of legal disputes. In addition, powers of medical attorney and wills wrap things up at the end, so what's the point of "marriage"?