Want to reduce poverty? Increase marriage


Value of family imageThe NZ Herald today argues that poverty may be breaking up the nuclear family Families being split by poverty”. 

In fact, the reverse is true. Declining marriage rates and increased welfare have caused poverty. Welfare has made marriage economically irrational for most low-income parents. It has transformed marriage from being a legal institution designed to protect and nurture children into an institution that financially penalises nearly all low-income parents who enter into it.

Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute (US), explains: “The proliferation of single-parent households accounts for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since the early 1970s.”

Bill Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings who served as President Clinton’s domestic policy advisor, says that an American today must only do three things to avoid living in poverty: graduate from high school, marry before having a child, and have children after age 20. Only 8% of people who do these three things are poor, 79% who fail to meet these expectations live in poverty.

Marriage is a wealth-generating institution. Marriage drives well-being and upward mobility. The absence of marriage drives it down.

Any attempts to reduce child poverty cannot ignore this.

Unfortunately anti-poverty groups in NZ either fail to or don’t want to acknowledge the ‘elephant in the room’.

And all politicians can do is play with the definition of it.

The NZ Herald‘s own graphic summary sums it

poverty v social costs small

Versus this

marriage rate