Opinion

January 9, 2014 (Heritage) – Is splitting costs such as housing in half the only advantage marriage brings to helping eradicate poverty?

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Slate’s Matt Yglesias suggested that yesterday, writing, “Marriage ‘lifts’ families out of poverty not by increasing their incomes but by reducing what the federal government assumes their expenses to be. Single people often have roommates for the same reason.”

But the cost-sharing benefit is not all marriage brings to the table for low-income families. Instead, married parents help boost their children’s odds of eventually rising on the economic ladder. In 2013, Heritage’s Ryan T. Anderson wrote:

Social science confirms the importance of marriage for kids. According to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every examined indicator when reared by their wedded, biological parents. Studies that control for other factors, including poverty and even genetics, suggest that children reared in intact homes do best on educational achievement, emotional health, familial and sexual development, and delinquency and incarceration.

Educational achievement alone is huge for economic mobility: The data consistently shows that higher educational achievement is generally correlated with higher income.

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In a 2012 report, Heritage’s Robert Rector also stressed the role marriage could play in eradicating poverty (emphasis added):

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school. Many of these negative outcomes are associated with the higher poverty rates of single mothers. In many cases, however, the improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income. This indicates that the father brings more to his home than just a paycheck.

Once again, it is marriage itself – not just the larger combined paycheck of a couple  – that is responsible for benefits that boost children’s chances at a better future.

Reprinted with permission from Heritage

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