Column from the Archives
Every now and then, I receive feedback from my column. In looking through my past correspondence, one that particularly touched the readers was “Marriage is America’s Most Effective Anti-Poverty Program.” It was written in October, 2013, and with another Twogether in Texas marriage education workshop scheduled for November, I thought this might be an opportune time to bring it out of the archives!
Whether you lean to the right or left, there is one aspect about marriage that both agree on – marriage is a valuable anti-poverty program. The Brookings Institution indicates that if we had the marriage rate today that we had in 1970, there would be a 25% or more drop in poverty. The Heritage Foundation says that marriage drops the probability of a child living in poverty by 82%.
The decline in marriage is complex and multi-faceted – high divorce rates, increasing cohabitation, and high rates of out-of-wedlock births have all contributed to the drop in marriage. Chuck Stetson, Chairman of “Let’s Strengthen Marriage Campaign”, provides five reasons why we need to re-value and strengthen marriage:
1) The decline of marriage hurts the working and lower class. Recent findings show that in working class America, 37% of children live with both their mother and father compared to 96% in 1960. In upper class America, the numbers are better – 84% of children live with both parents compared to 99% in 1960. Most Americans feel compassion for the working single woman who finds herself in an unwanted circumstance and courageously chooses to raise her child alone. They understand her desire to maintain financial stability. However, the growing epidemic of births to single mothers is coming from women who are choosing to put themselves in unwed pregnancy, very often during their teenage years, and have no means of financial self-sufficiency, nor any expectation that the father will be a constant presence and legal provider.
2) Loss of marital skills for the next generation. The decline in marriage rates has been increasing the population of trouble youth and enlarging our prison populations (almost all prisoners are from single-parent or broken homes.) The serious by-product is that we are raising a generation which does not know what healthy marriage looks and feels like, and thereby cannot model it.
3) Celebrity modeling send the wrong message. Cohabitating unwed celebrity parents who make millions in the movie industry are sending the wrong message about marriage to those who live paycheck to paycheck. Research proves overwhelmingly that this is harmful to regular folks who do not have the enormous financial wealth that affords celebrities to live their unusual life of abundance.
4) We can do better. The old rhyme, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes _____ with a baby carriage” challenged couples to marry first and to live up to much more of their potential. A relationship should build over time, with the focused goal being committed to one another.
5) Researchers know the truth, but is it being said enough? We need to speak up about the best way to really give one’s offspring the greatest advantages in life. If you graduate from high school, work full-time, and postpone marriage and childbearing until after the age of 21, your chances of being in poverty are only 2%. If you don’t do all of those three things, your chances of poverty rise to 77%.
A declining society accepts as normal the things that are not normal. Given our current predicament, we need to tug at something inside the human heart – hope for betterment of one’s own child, civic duty, conscience, conviction about right or wrong to shift the thinking and behavior of individuals.
Changing the public’s thinking, actions, and habits on recycling, smoking, exercise and healthy eating has been promoted. Now, let’s promote the benefits of encouraging healthy marriage!
Twogether in Texas Marriage Education Workshop
I will be implementing another marriage education workshop on Saturday, November 21, at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, 1200 W. Houston Street, in Sulphur Springs. We’ll start around 8:30 a.m. This workshop is absolutely free, but a great perk is that engaged couples will receive a certificate to save $60 upon applying for a marriage license. The certificate is good for an entire year. Topics include marriage expectations, communication, conflict resolution, money management, and goals & dreams. Contact my office at 903-885-3443 to sign up for this terrific workshop.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself – Leo Tolstoy