From Heritage Foundation:
The higher poverty rate among single-mother families is caused by two factors: (1) the lower income caused by the absence of the father from the home, and (2) the lower average education levels among single mothers.
outside marriage in Tennessee occur predominantly among less-educated
women. In Tennessee, 70.3 percent of births among women who are high
school dropouts are out of wedlock. Among women who are college
graduates, only 7.2 percent of births are out of wedlock. Ironically,
the women most likely to have children without being married are those
who have the least ability to support children on their own.
Marriage, Education, and Poverty
Tennessee is splitting into two separate castes. In the top half of the population, children are raised by married couples with a college education. In the bottom economic third of the population, children are raised by single mothers with a high school degree or less.
Policymakers clearly recognize that education reduces poverty, but they are largely unaware that marriage is an equally strong anti-poverty weapon. In Tennessee, married couples with children are 75 percent less likely to be poor than non-married families with the same level of education. In fact, a married family headed by a high school dropout in Tennessee is actually less likely to be poor than a non-married family headed by an individual with a few years of college.
Marriage, Poverty, and RaceMarriage substantially reduces the probability of poverty within all racial groups. For example, in Tennessee, non-married black families are nearly six times more likely to be poor than married black families. Non-married Hispanic families are three times more likely to be poor than married Hispanic families, while non-married white families are nearly six times more likely to be poor than married white families.
Marital Collapse: Not the Same as Teen PregnancyUnwed childbearing is often erroneously confused with teen pregnancy. In reality, only 8.6 percent of non-marital births in Tennessee occur to girls under age 18. Most non-marital births occur to young adult women in their early 20s. Lack of access to birth control is not a significant cause of non-marital births.
positive effects of married fathers are not limited to income alone.
Children raised by married parents have substantially better life
outcomes compared to similar children raised in single-parent homes.
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
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.
The Importance of Fathers
billions are properly spent on the education of low-income youth. Billions more are spent each year on means-tested welfare aid for single mothers. But at present, Tennessee does little or nothing to discourage unwed births and nothing to encourage and strengthen healthy marriages.
Tragically, the critical facts about the importance of marriage in combating poverty are never communicated to youths at risk for future non-marital births. Similarly, the state welfare system ignores and disdains the institution of marriage: In fact, most welfare programs actively penalize low-income couples who do marry. Tennessee will continue to have high levels of child poverty, inequality, and welfare dependence as long as this governmental indifference and hostility to marriage persists.
Ironically, research shows that most unwed parents look favorably on the institution of marriage. New policies should be developed that build on these attitudes. Government should provide factual information to at-risk youth about the value of marriage. It should also connect low-income couples with community resources that will help them relearn the skills needed to develop and sustain healthy marriages before bringing children into the world. Finally, the state welfare system should be reformed to encourage rather than discourage marriage.