Growing up in a married family is as important as a good education in helping young people to escape from poverty, a new study from America has revealed.
A stable home raises a child’s prospects of escaping the poverty trap by a massive 82 per cent, research has found.
Just seven per cent of children in families below the poverty level had two married parents, the study discovered. But 37 per cent of children in families below the poverty level were in households where their parents were not married.
When equally well-educated families were compared, marriage increased a child’s chance of living above the poverty line by a huge 75 per cent irrespective of ethnic groups, the study found.
It also found that in the high-income third of the population, the majority of children are raised by married parents and have high standards of education.
But in the bottom-income third, most children are raised by single parents and attain lower standards of education.
Robert Rector, the author of the study, called “Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty”, said the U.S. was “steadily separating into a two-caste system with marriage and education as the dividing line”.
“Being married has roughly the same effect in reducing poverty that adding five to six years to a parent’s education has,” wrote Rector, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, the Washington DC-based conservative think tank that commissioned the study.
“Marriage remains America’s strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline,” he wrote in his conclusion.
“As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result,” he said.
“Since marital decline drives up child poverty and welfare dependence, and since the poor aspire to healthy marriage but lack the norms, understanding, and skills to achieve it, it is reasonable for government to take active steps to strengthen marriage.
“Just as government discourages youth from dropping out of school, it should clearly and forcefully articulate the value of marriage. It should provide information that will help people to form and maintain healthy marriages and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable.”
He added: “Marriage is highly beneficial to children, adults, and society; it needs to be encouraged and strengthened.
“Under current government policies, however, marriage is either ignored or undermined. This needs to change.”
Legislators in the U.S., however, appear more intent on promoting gay marriage instead of shoring up traditional heterosexual marriage for the benefit of children.
The situation is similar in Britain where the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has abandoned promised for tax breaks for married couples under pressure from his deputy, Nick Clegg, while vowing to press ahead with the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
In responding to the public consultation on same-sex marriage, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales expressed their alarm that the proposals did not mention the welfare of children even once.
Rector’s research involved the collation and analyses of key social and demographic data that had been collected by the U.S. government – most notably the Department of Health and Human Services.
Statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics was also analysed.
The study also relied on statistical evidence from recent the National Vital Statistics Reports of the U.S. Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, and from annual reports by American Community Surveys.
Most of the research related to trends and developments over the last decade.