Friday, February 13, 2009

And not a word about married parents

The number one reason for children growing up in poverty is their parents: unmarried young mothers who didn't finish their education. A child whose mother didn't have her first child until she was out of her teens, who finished high school, and got married before she started a family has a very small chance of growing up in poverty. But here's what Obama said he would do--and none of this is original to him--we've been goosing this problem with government money (and good salaries for the bureaucrats in the programs) since the 1930s when social workers decided Uncle Sam could be a step-father to millions, thus keeping them in poverty and on the rolls for the Democrats for a life time.
    "My anti-poverty plan will significantly improve opportunities for millions of poor children and their parents by strengthening the economy for working Americans and providing additional resources to programs that have proven to be effective in reducing poverty. For example, my plan will expand the EITC, which is considered one of the most effective pro-work anti-poverty programs to date, to 5.8 million more Americans. Additionally, my EITC plan will increase EITC benefits for another 6.2 million Americans. I will also extend affordable, quality and portable health insurance coverage to every American and make significant investments in early childhood education to help low-income families. I will invest $1 billion over five years into transitional jobs and career pathways programs to engage more Americans into the workforce and help them succeed. I will also work to tackle chronic poverty in urban neighborhoods across American by creating Promise Neighborhoods in 20 cities to provide new hope and opportunities to residents of concentrated poverty." Spotlight on Poverty
William Galston, a Democratic strategist and former domestic affairs adviser to President Clinton is usually acknowledged as the source of the statistics on the relationship between poverty, education and marriage. But it's been confirmed many times either in research or in personal experience by people who work with the poor. Even divorce lowers a child's economic level. Only 8% of people who do all three will be poor; of those who fail to do them, 79% will be poor. The evidence that mother-only families contribute to crime is powerful. When two scholars studied data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, they found that, after holding income constant, young people in father-absent families were twice as likely to be in jail as were those in two-parent families. And their lives did not improve if their mother had acquired a stepfather for them. Fill-in dads don't improve matters any more than do fatter government checks.

Will more money in the form of EITC help? More health insurance? Vinyl siding and new windows on the home bought with a government grant? Not if marriage is left out of the poverty solution. Poor and low income women already have access to many government programs--most of which hold them hostage. I know a married mother of a school age child who doesn't work because the family would lose its EITC and SCHIP. It will also never get beyond "low income." During the year before their babies were born, 43% of unmarried mothers received welfare or food stamps, 21% received some type of housing subsidy, and 9% received another type of government transfer (unemployment insurance etc.). For women who have another child, the proportion who receive welfare or food stamps rises to 54%. (McLanahan, Sara. The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study: Baseline National Report. Princeton, NJ: Center for Research on Child Well-being, 2003). Unmarried parents put children at risk for high rates of asthma (Harknett, Kristin. Children’s Elevated Risk of Asthma in Unmarried Families: Underlying Structural and Behavioral Mechanisms. Working Paper #2005-01-FF. Princeton, NJ: Center for Research on Child Well-being, 2005: 19-27.). In a study of INTERPOL crime statistics of 39 countries, it was found that single parenthood ratios were strongly correlated with violent crimes. (Barber, Nigel. “Single Parenthood As a Predictor of Cross-National Variation in Violent Crime.” Cross-Cultural Research 38 (November 2004): 343-358.)

Putting himself out there to the public as a married family man may be the number one thing President Obama can do bring down poverty. This he needs to say before every speech on proverty. Bring Michelle and the girls on stage and say proudly, "Here is plan A. Now for Plan B. . . "


Janelle Maluenda said...

President Obama was raised by a single parent. He doesn't have asthma.

Norma said...

Right. And she had a good support system, and he was raised by his grandparents for a significant part of his life. That doesn't change the dismal statistics for children, however. Uncle Sam is not a good step-father.