Marriage, Poverty, and Public Policy
A Discussion Paper from the Council on Contemporary Families
Prepared for the Fifth Annual CCF Conference, April 26-28, 2002
by Stephanie Coontz and Nancy Folbre
One of the stated objectives of welfare legislation
passed in 1996 was "to end dependence by promoting marriage." With this
legislation coming up for re-authorization, many policy-makers want to devote
more public resources to this goal, even if it requires cutting spending on cash
benefits, child care, or job training. Some states, such as West Virginia,
already use their funds to provide a special bonus to couples on public
assistance who get married.(1) In December 2001, more
than fifty state
legislators asked Congress to divert funds from existing programs into marriage
education and incentive policies, earmarking dollars to encourage welfare
recipients to marry and giving bonus money to states that increase marriage
rates. On February 26, 2002, President Bush called for spending up to $300
million a year to promote marriage among poor people. href="#2">(2)
Such proposals reflect the widespread assumption that failure to marry, rather
than unemployment, poor education, and lack of affordable child care, is the
primary cause of child poverty. Voices from both sides of the political spectrum
urge us to get more women to the altar. Journalist Jonathan Rauch argues that
"marriage is displacing both income and race as the great class divide of the new
century."(3) Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation
claims that "the sole
reason that welfare exists is the collapse of marriage." href="#4">(4) In this briefing
paper, we question both this explanation of poverty and the policy prescriptions
that derive from it.
Marriage offers important social and economic benefits. Children who grow up
with married parents generally enjoy a higher standard of living than those
living in single-parent households. Two parents are usually better than one not
only because they can bring home two paychecks, but also because they can share
responsibilities for child care. Marriage often leads to higher levels of
paternal involvement than divorce, non-marriage, or cohabitation. Long-term
commitments to provide love and support to one another are beneficial for adults,
as well as children.
Public policies toward marriage could and should be improved.
href="#5">(5) Taxes or
benefit reductions that impose a marriage penalty on low-income couples are
inappropriate and should be eliminated. Well designed public policies could play
a constructive role in helping couples develop the skills they need to develop
healthy and sustainable relationships with each other and their children. It does
not follow, however, that marriage promotion should be a significant component of
anti-poverty policy, or that public policies should provide a "bonus" to couples
The current pro-marriage agenda in anti-poverty policy is misguided for at
least four reasons:
the other way around.
without helping them solve problems that make relationships precarious could
leave them worse off.
children at risk. More than one third of all impoverished young children in the
U.S. today live with two parents.
Single parenthood does not inevitably lead to poverty. In countries with a more
adequate social safety net than the United States, single parent families are
much less likely to live in poverty. Even within the United States, single
mothers with high levels of education fare relatively well.
In this briefing paper, we summarize recent empirical evidence concerning the
relationship between marriage and poverty, and develop the four points above in
more detail. We also emphasize the need to develop a larger anti-poverty program
that provides the jobs, education, and child care that poor families need in
order to move toward self-sufficiency.
The Economic Context
Children living with married parents generally fare better than others in
terms of family income. In 2000, 6 percent of married couple families with
children lived in poverty, compared to 33 percent of female householders with
children.(6) Mothers who never marry are more
vulnerable to poverty than
virtually any other group, including those who have been divorced. href="#7">(7)
But the low income associated with single parenthood reflects many
interrelated factors. Income is distributed far more unequally in the United
States than in most other developed countries, making it difficult for low-wage
workers (male or female) to support a family without a second income. Women who
become single mothers are especially likely to have inadequate wages, both
because of pre-existing disadvantages such as low educational attainment and work
experience and because the shortage of publicly subsidized child care makes it
difficult for them to work full time. In 2000, only 1.2 percent of children of
single mothers with a college degree who worked full-time year round lived in
poverty.(8) For single mothers with some college
working full-time, the poverty rate was less than 8 percent. href="#9">(9)
Whether single or married, working parents face high child care costs that are
seldom factored into calculations of poverty and income. Consider the situation
of a single mother with two children working full-time, full year round at the
minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, for an income of $10,712. If she files for and
receives the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit, she can receive as much as $3,816
in public assistance. But the EITC phases out quickly if she earns much more than
the minimum wage, and her child care costs are very high. Unless she is lucky
enough to have a family member who can provide free child care, or to find a
federally subsidized child care slot, more than 20 per cent of her income will
go to pay for child care.(10) Federally subsidized
child care remains quite
limited. Most families who made a transition from welfare to employment in the
1990s did not receive a subsidy.(11)
The high cost of child care helps explain why the economic position of single
parents has improved little in recent years despite significant increases in
their hours of market work.(12) It may also explain
why single parents are
likely to live in households with other adults who can share expenses with them.
About 40 percent of births to single mothers take place among cohabitors, and
much of the increase in nonmarital childbearing in recent years reflects this
trend rather than an increase in among women living without a partner. href="#13">(13) The
economic stress associated with reductions in welfare benefits over the past six
years may have increased the pressure on single mothers to cohabit, often with
partners who are unwilling or unlikely to marry.(14)
On both a symbolic and a practical level, marriage facilitates the income
pooling and task sharing that allows parents to accommodate family needs. href="#15">(15)
Not surprisingly, many low-income families consider marriage the ideal
arrangement for child rearing.(16) The Fragile
Families and Child Welfare project
currently underway in about twenty cities shows that about 50 per cent of
unmarried parents of newborns live together and hope to marry at some
Lower expectations among some couples were associated not with disinterest in
marriage but with reports of drug or alcohol problems, physical violence,
conflict and mistrust.(18)
The advantages of marriage, however, do not derive simply from having two
names on a marriage certificate, and they cannot be acquired merely by going
through a formality. Rather, they grow out of a long-term and economically
sustainable commitment that many people feel is beyond their reach.
Causality Works Both Ways
Liking the abstract idea of marriage and being able to put together a stable
marriage in real life are two very different things. Unemployment, low wages, and
poverty discourage family formation and erode family stability, making it less
likely that individuals will marry in the first place and more likely that their
marriages will deteriorate. These economic factors have long-term as well as
short-term effects, contributing to changes in social norms regarding marriage
and family formation and exacerbating distrust between men and women. These
long-term effects help explain why African-Americans marry at much lower rates
than other groups within the U.S. population. Poverty is a cause as well as a
consequence of non-marriage and of marital disruption. href="#19">(19)
Dan Lichter of Ohio State University puts it this way: "Marriage can be a
pathway from poverty, but only if women are 'marriageable,' stay married, and
marry well."(20) Precisely because marriage offers
individuals tend to seek potential spouses who have good earnings potential and
to avoid marriage when they do not feel they or their potential mates can
comfortably support a family. Ethnographic research shows that low-income women
see economic stability on the part of a prospective partner as a necessary
precondition for marriage.(21) Not surprisingly, men
increasingly use the same
calculus. Rather than looking for someone they can "rescue" from poverty,
employed men are much more likely to marry women who themselves have good
Poor mothers who lack a high school degree and any regular employment history
are not likely to fare very well in the so-called "marriage market." Teenage
girls who live in areas of high unemployment and inferior schools are five to
seven times more likely to become unwed parents than more fortunately situated
teens.(23) A study of the National Longitudinal
Survey of Youth confirms that
poor women, whatever their age, and regardless of whether or not they are or have
ever been on welfare, are less likely to marry than women who are not poor.
Among poor women, those who do not have jobs are less likely to marry than those
It is easy to spin a hypothetical scenario in which marrying off single
mothers to an average male would raise family incomes and reduce poverty. But
unmarried males, and especially unmarried males in impoverished neighborhoods,
are not average. That is often the reason they are not married. Researchers from
the Center for Research on Child Well-Being at Princeton University report
results from the Fragile Families Survey showing that unmarried fathers were
twice as likely as married ones to have a physical or psychological problem that
interfered with their ability to find or keep a job, and several times more
likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. More than 25 percent of unmarried fathers were
not employed when their child was born, compared to fewer than 10 percent of
Poor mothers tend to live in neighborhoods in which their potential marriage
partners are also likely to be poorly educated and irregularly employed.
Low-earning men are less likely to get married and more likely to divorce than
men with higher earnings.(26) Over the past thirty
years, labor market
opportunities for men with low levels of education have declined
substantially.(27) Several studies suggest that the
decrease in real wages for
low-income men during the 1980s and early 1990s contributed significantly to
lower marriage rates in those years.(28)
This trend has been exacerbated by the high incarceration rates for men
convicted of non-violent crimes, such as drug use. While in jail, these men are
not available for women to marry and their diminished job prospects after release
permanently impair their marriageability. High rates of incarceration among
black males, combined with high rates of mortality, have led to a decidedly
tilted sex ratio within the African-American population, and a resulting scarcity
of marriageable men.(29) One study of the marriage
market in the 1980s found that
at age 25 there were three unmarried black women for every black man who had
adequate earnings.(30) As Ron Mincy of Columbia
University emphasizes, simple
pro-marriage policies are likely to offer less benefit to African-Americans
families than policies encouraging responsible fatherhood and paternal
In short, the notion that we could end child poverty by marrying off
impoverished women does not take into account the realities of life among the
population most likely to be poor. It is based on abstract scenarios that ignore
the many ways in which poverty diminishes people's ability to build and sustain
stable family relationships.
Happy, healthy, stable marriages offer important benefits to adults and
children. But not all marriages fit this description. Marital distress leads to
harsh and inconsistent parenting, whether or not parents stay together. Studies
show that a marriage marked by conflict, jealousy and anger is often worse for
children's well-being than divorce or residence from birth in a stable
single-parent family.(32) For instance, research
shows that while children born
to teenagers who were already married do better than children born to
never-married teens, children born to teen parents who married after the
birth do worse on some measures, probably because of the high conflict that
accompanies marriages entered into with ambivalence or under pressure. Some
research suggests that, among low-income African-American families, children from
single-parent homes show higher educational achievement than their counterparts
from two-parent homes.(33)
The idea that marriage can solve the problems of children in impoverished
families ignores the complex realities of these families. The Fragile Families
study shows that many low-income parents of new born children already have
children from previous relationships. Thus, their marriages would not create
idealized biological families, but rather blended families in which child support
enforcement and negotiation among stepparents would complicate
relationships.(34) A recent study of families in
poor neighborhoods in Boston, Chicago and San
Antonio also reveals complex patterns of cohabitation and coparenting. href="#35">(35)
Marriage to a stepfather may improve a mother's economic situation, but it
does not necessarily improve outcomes for children and in some cases leads to
more problems than continued residence in a stable single-parent family. Even if
programs succeed in getting first-time parents married, there is no guarantee
that the couples will stay married. Research shows that marriages contracted in
the 1960s in order to "legitimate" a child were highly likely to end in
divorce.(36) Multiple transitions in and out of
marriage are worse for children
psychologically than residence in the same kind of family, whatever its form,
over long periods of time.(37)
Women and children in economically precarious situations are particularly
vulnerable to domestic violence.(38) While it may be
true that cohabiting
couples are more prone to violence than married couples, this is probably because
of what social scientists call a "selection effect": People in non-abusive
relationships are more likely to get married. Encouraging women in an unstable
cohabiting relationship to marry their partners would not necessarily protect
them or their children. Indeed, the first serious violent episode in an unstable
relationship sometimes occurs only after the couple has made a formal
Even when it does not take a violent form, bad fathering can be worse than no
fathering. For instance, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at
Columbia University found that while teens in two-parent families are, on
average, much less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than teens in one-parent
ones, teens in two-parent families who have a poor to fair relationship with
their father are more likely to do so than teens in the average one-parent
Furthermore, even good marriages are vulnerable to dissolution. The current
risks of a marriage ending in divorce are quite high, although they have come
down from their peak in 1979-81. It is now estimated that approximately 40
percent of marriages will end in divorce, and the risk of divorce is elevated
among people with low income and insecure jobs. Sociologist Scott South
calculates that every time the unemployment rate rises by 1 percent,
approximately 10,000 extra divorces occur.(41)
Comparing the income of
single-parent families and married-couple families in any particular year leads
to an overly optimistic assessment of the benefits of marriage, because it
ignores the possibility of marital dissolution.
Marriage may provide a temporary improvement in a woman's economic prospects
without conferring any secure, long-term protection for her children. Indeed, if
marriage encourages mothers to withdraw time from paid employment, this can lower
their future earnings and increase the wage penalty that they incur from
Two Parent Families Are Also Under Stress
Poverty among children is not confined to single-parent families. In 2000,
about 38% of all poor young children lived in two-parent homes. href="#43">(43) These
families have been largely overlooked in the debates over anti-poverty programs
and marriage. Indeed, the campaign to increase marriage has overlooked one of the
most important public policy issues facing the United States: the growing
economic gap between parents, whether married or unmarried, and non-parents.
The costs of raising children have increased in recent years, partly because
of the expansion of opportunities for women in the labor market and partly
because of the longer time children spend in school. The lack of public support
for parenting has also contributed to a worsening of the economic position of
parents relative to non-parents.(44) Unlike other
advanced industrial countries,
the United States fails to provide paid family leaves for parents, and levels of
publicly subsidized support for child care remain comparatively low. Most
employment practices penalize workers who take time away from paid
responsibilities to provide family care.(45) The
high cost of parenting in this
country helps explain many of the economic disadvantages that women face relative
to men.(46) It may also help explain why many men
are reluctant to embrace
The Need for a Better Social Safety Net
The association of single parenthood with poverty is not inevitable. In Canada
and France, single mothers -- and children in general -- are far less likely to
live in poverty. Sweden and Denmark, with higher rates of out-of-wedlock births,
have much lower rates of child poverty and hunger than does the United States.
The reason for the difference is simple: These countries devote a greater
percentage of their resources to assisting families with children than we
Similarly, dramatic differences in child poverty rates within our country
reflect differences in tax, child care, and income assistance policies across
Fans of the 1996 welfare reform law point to a dramatic decline in the welfare
rolls since its enactment. Much of this decline is attributable to the economic
boom and resulting low unemployment rates of the late 1990s. Despite promises
that work requirements and time limits would lead to a more generous package of
assistance for those who "followed the rules, " cash benefits have declined.
Between 1994 and 1999, the real value of maximum benefits fell in most states,
with an overall decline in inflation-adjusted value of about 11 per cent. href="#49">(49)
Average benefits declined even more, as recipients increased their earnings.
Indeed, the declining value of benefits is another reason why caseloads have
Punitive attitudes, as well as time limits, have discouraged many eligible
families from applying for assistance. The Census Bureau estimates that less than
30 per cent of children in poverty resided in a family that received cash public
assistance in 1998.(51) Take-up rates for Food
Stamps and Medicaid have declined
in recent years.(52) The implementation of the new
Children's Health Insurance
program has been quite uneven. As a result, states have saved money, but many
children have gone without the food or medical care they needed. Public support
for child care increased on both the federal and the state level. Still, most
families who made a transition from welfare to work in the late 1990s did not
receive a subsidy.(53)
During the economic boom of the late 1990s, increases in earnings among single
parents helped make up for declining welfare benefits. As a result, poverty rates
among children declined from a high of about 21 per cent in 1996 to about 16 per
cent in 2000.(54) But these figures do not take into
account the costs of child
care and other work-related expenses, and they offer little hope for the future
of children in low-income families as unemployment rates once again begin to
The most important federal policy promoting the welfare of low income families
is currently the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a fully refundable tax credit
aimed at low-income families with children. Because benefits are closely tied to
earnings, and phase out steeply after family income reaches $12,460, the EITC
imposes a significant penalty on two-earner married couples, who are less likely
to benefit from it than either single parent families or married couples with a
spouse at home. This penalty is unfair and should be eliminated.
Other problems with the EITC, however, should be addressed at the same time.
Families with two children receive the maximum benefit, which means that
low-income families with three or more children do not receive any additional
assistance. More than a third of all children in the country live in families
with three or more children. Partly as a result of limited EITC coverage, these
families are prone to significantly higher poverty rates. href="#56">(56) Furthermore, the
EITC is phased out in ways that penalize middle income families, who currently
enjoy less public support for child rearing than the affluent. href="#57">(57) An expanded
unified tax credit for families with children could address this problem. href="#58">(58)
Given the pressing need for improvements in basic social safety net programs
and the threat of rising unemployment, it is unconscionable to reallocate already
inadequate Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds to policies
designed to promote marriage or provide a "marriage bonus." There is little
evidence that such policies would in fact increase marriage rates or reduce
poverty among children. Indeed, the main effect of marriage bonuses would
probably be to impose a "non-marriage" penalty that would have a particularly
negative impact on African-American children, who are significantly less likely
to live with married parents than either whites or Hispanics. href="#59">(59) As Julianne
Malveaux points out in her discussion of the Bush proposal, "a mere $100 million
can be considered chump change. But the chump who could have been changed is the
unemployed worker who misses out on job training because some folks find those
programs -- but not marriage-promotion programs -- a waste." href="#60">(60)
Well-designed programs to help individuals develop and improve family
relationships may be a good idea. However, they should not be targeted to the
poor, but integrated into a larger provision of public health services, or built
into existing health insurance programs (mandating, for instance, that both
public and private health insurance cover family counseling). Such programs also
should not be limited to couples who are married or planning to marry. Fathers
and step-fathers who are not living with their biological children also need
guidance and encouragement to develop healthy, nurturing relationships. Gay and
lesbian families -- who are currently legally prohibited from marriage -- also
Public policies should not penalize marriage. Neither should they provide an
economic bonus or financial incentive to individuals to marry, especially at the
cost of lowering the resources available to children living with single mothers.
Such a diversion of resources from public assistance programs penalizes the
children of unmarried parents without guaranteeing good outcomes for the children
of people who are married. A variety of public policies could help strengthen
families and reduce poverty among all children, including a broadening of the
Earned Income Tax Credit, expansion of publicly subsidized child care, efforts to
promote responsible fatherhood, improvements in public education and job
training, and efforts to reduce income inequality and pay discrimination. Unlike
some of the pro-marriage policies now under consideration, these policies would
benefit couples who wish to marry but would not pressure women to enter or remain
in intimate relationships they would not otherwise choose.
Acknowledgment: The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of
Sherman, senior research associate at the Children's Defense Fund, with
statistical references and calculations.
1. Alexandra Starr, "Shotgun Wedding by Uncle Sam?" Business Week, June 4,
2. Cheryl Wetzstein, "States Want Pro-Family Funds," The Washington Times,
December 10, 2001; Robin Toner and Robert Pear, "Bush Urges Work and Marriage
Programs in Welfare Plan," New York Times, February 27, 2002.
3. Jonathan Rauch, "The Widening Marriage Gap: America's New Class Divide,"
National Journal, Friday, May 18, 2001.
4. Cheryl Weitzstein, "Unwed Mothers Set a Record for Births," The Washington
Times, April 18, 2001.
5. See Jared Bernstein, Irv Garfinkel, and Sara McLanahan, A Progressive
Marriage Agenda, forthcoming from the Economic Policy Institute.
6. U.S. Bureau of the Census, "Historical Poverty Statistics -- Table 4. Poverty
Status of Families, by Type of Family, Presence of Related Children, Race, And
Hispanic Origin: 1959-2000," Available at http://www.census.gov. In 1999, 36
percent of single-mother households lived in poverty. Poverty in the U.S.
1999. Current Population Reports, P60-210 (Washington, D.C.: Government
Printing Office, 2000).
7. Alan Guttmacher Institute, "Married Mothers Fare the Best Economically, Even
If they Were Unwed at the Time they Gave Birth," Family Planning
Perspectives 31, no. 5: pp. 258-60, September, 1999; Ariel Halpern, "Poverty
Among Children Born Outside of Marriage: Preliminary Findings from the National
Survey of America's Families," (Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 1999).
8. Calculations by Arloc Sherman, Children's Defense Fund, based on the March
2001 Current Population Survey.
9. Ibid. See also Neil G. Bennett, Jiali Li, Younghwan Song, and Keming Yang,
"Young Children in Poverty: A Statistical Update," released June 17, 1999. New
York: National Center for Children in Poverty,
10. Linda Giannarelli and James Barsimantov, Child Care Expenses of America's
Families, Occasional Paper Number 40 (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute,
11. Rachel Schumacher and Mark Greenberg, Child Care After Leaving Welfare:
Early Evidence from State Studies (Washington, D.C.: Center for Law and
Social Policy, 1999).
12. Kathryn H. Porter and Allen Dupree, "Poverty Trends for Families Headed by
Working Single Mothers, 1993-1999," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,
August 16, 2001. For full article: TARGET="outlink">http://www.cbpp.org/8-16-01wel.pdf.
13. Pamela Smock, "Cohabitation in the U.S.: An Appraisal of Research Themes,
Findings, and Implications," American Review of Sociology 26, no.1 (2000):
14. Gregory Acs and Sandi Nelson, "'Honey, I'm Home.' Changes in Living
Arrangements in the Late 1990s," New Federalism: National Survey of America's
Families (The Urban Institute), June 2001, pp. 1-7. A new study by Johns
Hopkins researchers, presented on February 20, 2002 at a welfare forum in
Washington D.C., however, shows that these partnerships are unstable and may not
be better for children than single-parent households. See Robin Toner, "Two
Parents not Always Best for Children, Study Finds," New York Times,
February 20, 2002.
15. Many dual-earner families with preschool age children include a parent who
works evenings and nights in order to provide care during the day while their
husband or wife is at work. See Harriet Presser, "Employment Schedules Among
Dual-Earner Spouses and the Division of Household Labor by Gender," American
Sociological Review 59, no. 3 (June 1994): pp. 348-364.
16. Kristen Harknett and Sara McLanahan, "Do Perceptions of Marriage Explain
Marital Behavior? How Unmarried Parents' Assessments of the Benefits of Marriage
Relate to their Subsequent Marital Decision;" and Marcia Carlson, Sara McLanahan,
and Paula England, "Union Formation and Stability in Fragile Families," papers
presented at the meetings of the Population Association of America, Washington
D.C., April 2001.
17. More details on the Fragile Families study are available at
18. Maureen Waller, "High Hopes: Unwed Parents' Expectations About Marriage,"
Children and Youth Services Review 23 (2001): pp. 457-84.
19. Sara McLanahan, "Parent Absence or Poverty: Which Matters More?" pp. 35-48 in
Greg Duncan and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, eds., Consequences of Growing Up Poor
(New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997). On the impact of poverty in creating
non-marriage and marital disruption, see Aimee Dechter, "The Effect of Women's
Economic Independence on Union Dissolution," Working Paper Np. 92-98 (1992).
Center for Demography and Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; Mark
Testa et al, "Employment and Marriage among Inner-City Fathers," Annals of the
American Academy of Political and Social Science 501 (1989), pp. 79-91; Karen
Holden and Pamela Smock, "The Economic Costs of Marital Dissolution: Why Do Women
bear a Disproportionate Cost?" Annual Review of Sociology 17 (1991), pp.
51-58. On the association of low income with domestic violence see Kristin
Anderson, "Gender, Status, and Domestic violence," Journal of Marriage and the
Family 59 (1997), pp. 655-670; A. M. Moore, "Intimate Violence: Does
Socioeconomic Status Matter?" in A.P. Gardarelli, ed., Violence Between
Intimate Partners (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997), pp. 90-100; A. J. Sedlack
and D.D. Broadhurst, D.D., Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and
Neglect: Final Report (Washington D.C.: Department of Health and Human
20. Daniel T. Lichter, Marriage as Public Policy (Washington, D.C:
Progressive Policy Institute, September 2001).
21. Kathryn Edin, "A Few Good Men: Why Poor Mothers Don't Marry or Remarry?"
The American Prospect, January 3, 2000, p. 28; Kathryn Edin and Laura
Lein, Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage
Work (New York: Russell Sage, 1998).
22. Valerie Oppenheimer and Vivian Lew, "American Marriage Formation in the
1980s," in Karen Mason and An-Magritt Jensen, eds, Gender and Family Change in
Industrialized Countries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 105-38;
Sharon Sassler and Robert Schoen, "The Effects of Attitudes and Economic Activity
on Marriage," Journal of Marriage and the Family 61 (1999): pp.
23. John Billy and David Moore, "A Multilevel Analysis of Marital and Nonmarital
Fertility in the U.S.," Social Forces 70 (1992), pp. 977-1011; Sara
McLanahan and Irwin Garfinkel, "Welfare is No Incentive," The New York
Times, July 29, 1994, p. A13; Elaine McCrate, "Expectations of Adult Wages
and Teenage Childbearing," International Review of Applied Economics 6
(1992) pp. 309-328; Ellen Coughlin, "Policy Researchers Shift the Terms of the
Debate on Women's Issues," The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 31,
1989; Marian Wright Edelman, Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social
Change (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), p. 55; Lawrence Lynn and
Michael McGeary, eds, Inner-City Poverty in the United States (Washington,
D.C.: National Academy Press, 1990), pp. 163-67; Jonathan Crane, "The Epidemic
Theory of Ghetto and Neighborhood Effects on Dropping Out and Teenaged
Childbearing," American Journal of Sociology 96 (1991), pp. 1226-59; Sara
McLanahan and Lynne Casper, "Growing Diversity and Inequality in the American
Family," in Reynolds Farley, State of the Union, Vol. 2, pp 10-11; Mike
Males, "Poverty, Rape, Adult/Teen Sex: Why 'Pregnancy Prevention' Programs Don't
Work," Phi Delta Kappan, January 1994, p.409; Mike Males, "In Defense of
Teenaged Mothers," The Progressive, August 1994, p. 23.
24. Dian McLaughlin and Daniel Lichter, Poverty and the Marital Behavior of Young
Women," Journal of Marriage and the Family 59, no.3 (1997): pp. 582-94.
25. Wendy Single-Rushton and Sara McLanahan, "For Richer or Poorer?" manuscript,
Center for Research on Child Well-Being, Princeton University, July 2001, p. 4;
Kathryn Edin, "What do Low-Income Single Mothers Say About Marriage?" Social
Problems 47 (2000), pp. 112-33.
26. Robert Nakosteen and Michael Zimmer, "Man, Money, and Marriage: Are High
Earners More Prone than Low Earners to Marry?" Social Science Quarterly 78
(1997): pp. 66-82.
27. Francine D. Blau, Lawrence W. Kahn and Jane Waldfogel, "Understanding Young
Women's Marriage Decisions: The Role of Labor and Marriage Market Conditions,"
Industrial and Labor Relations Review 53, no. 4 (July 2000): pp.
28.Robert Nakosteen and Michael Zimmer, "Men, Money, and Marriage" Social
Science Quarterly 78 (1997), pp. ; Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. "The Future of
Marriage," American Demographics 18 (June 1996), pp. 39-40; Francine Blau,
Lawrence Kahn, and Jane Waldfogel, "Understanding Young Women's Marriage
Decisions," Industrial and Labor Relations Review 53 (2000): pp.
29. William A. Darity, Jr. and Samuel L. Myers, Jr., "Family Structure and the
Marginalization of Black Men," Policy Implications" in The Decline in Marriage
Among African Americans: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Implications, ed.
M. Belinda Tucker and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan. (New York: Russell Sage
Foundation, 1995), pp. 263-308.
30. Daniel.T. Lichter, D. McLaughlin, F. LeClere, G. Kephart, and D. Landry,
"Race and the Retreat from Marriage: A Shortage of Marriageable Men?" American
Sociological Review 57 (December 1992): pp. 781-99.
31. Ron Mincy, Columbia University, personal communication, February 18,
32. Mavis Hetherington, For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (New
York: W. W. Norton, 2001); Paul Amato and Alan Booth, "The Legacy of Parents'
Marital Discord," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81 (2001),
pp. 627-638; Andrew Cherlin, "Going to Extremes: Family Structure, Children's
Well-Being, and Social Science," Demography 36 (November 1999): pp.
33. Elizabeth Cooksey, "Consequences of Young Mothers' Marital Histories for
Children's Cognitive Development," Journal of Marriage and the Family 59
(May 1997), pp. 245-62; Juan Battle, "What Beats Having Two Parents? Educational
Outcomes for African American Students in Single- Versus Dual-Parent Families,"
Journal of Black Studies 28 (1998), p. 783-802.
34. Ron Mincy and Chen-Chung Huang, "'Just Get Me to the Church...': Assessing
Policies to Promote Marriage among Fragile Families," manuscript prepared for the
MacArthur Foundation Network on the Family and the Economy Meeting, Evanston,
Illinois, November 30, 2001. Contact Ron Mincy, School of Social Work, Columbia
35. Research by Andrew Cherlin and Paula Fomby at Johns Hopkins University, as
reported in Robin Toner, "Two Parents Not Always Best for Children," New York
Times, February 21, 2002.
36. Frank Furstenberg, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and S. Philip Morgan, Adolescent
Mothers in Later Life (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
37. Frank Furstenberg, "Is the Modern Family a Threat to Children's Health?"
Society 36 (1999): p. 35.
38. Richard Gelles, "Constraints Against Family Violence," American Behavioral
Scientist 36 (1993), pp. 575-86; A. J. Sedlack and D.D. Broadhurst, Third
National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect: Final Report
(Washington, D.C.: Department of Health and Human Services, 1996); Kristin
Anderson, "Gender, Status and Domestic Violence," Journal of Marriage and the
Family 59 (1997), 655-670; Jacqueline Payne and Martha Davis, "Testimony of
NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund on Child Support and Fatherhood
Initiatives," submitted to the United States House Human Resources Subcommittee
of the Ways and Means Committee, June 28, 2001.
39. Catherine Kenney and Sara McLanahan, "Are Cohabiting Relationship More
Violent Than Marriages?" manuscript, Princeton University; E.D. Leonard, 1994,
"Battered Women and Criminal Justice: A Review (doctoral dissertation cited in
Todd Migliaccio, "Abused Husbands: A Narrative Analysis," Journal of Family
Issues 23 (2002), 26-52; K.D. O'Leary et al, "Prevalence and Stability of
Physical Aggression Between Spouses: A Longitudinal Analysis," Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology 57 (1989), pp. 263-68.
40. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University,
"Back to School 1999 National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse
V: Teens and their Parents," August 1999. See also Irvin Molotsky, "Study Links
Teenage Substance Abuse and Paternal Ties," New York Times, Aug. 31,
41. "Census Bureau Reports Poor Two-Parent Families Are about Twice as Likely to
Break Up as Two-Parent Families not in Poverty," New York Times, January
15, 1993, p. A6; Don Burroughs, "Love and Money," U.S. News & World
Report, October 19, 1992, p. 58; Scott South, Katherine Trent, and Yang Shen,
"Changing Partners: Toward a Macrostructural-Opportunity Theory of Marital
Dissolution," Journal of Marriage and Family 63, no.3 (2001):743-754. Also
see note 17.
42. Michelle Budig and Paula England, "The Wage Penalty for Motherhood,"
American Sociological Review 66 (2001): pp. 204-225; Heather Joshi,
Pierella Paci, and Jane Waldfogel. 1999. "The Wages of Motherhood: Better or
Worse," Cambridge Journal of Economics 23, no.5 (1999): pp. 543-564. Jane
Waldfogel, "The Effect of Children on Women's Wages," American Sociological
Review 62:2 (1997): pp. 209-217.
43. "Young Children in Poverty: A Statistical Update," June 1999 Edition.
Released June 17, 1999, prepared by Neil G. Bennett, Jiali Li, Younghwan Song,
and Keming Yang. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty,
for 2000 from CPS,
44. Nancy Folbre, Who Pays for the Kids? Gender and the Structures of
Constraint (New York: Routledge, 1994); Ann Crittenden, The Price of
Motherhood (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001); Sylvia Ann Hewlett and
Cornell West, The War Against Parents (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998).
45. Joan Williams, Unbending Gender. Why Family and Work Conflict and What to
Do About It. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
46. Ann Crittenden, The Price of Motherhood. Why the Most Important Job in the
World is Still the Least Valued (New York: Henry Holt, 2001).
47. Timothy Smeeding, Barbara Boyle Torrey and Martin Rein, "Patterns of Income
and Poverty: The Economic Status of Children and the Elderly in Eight Countries,"
in John L Palmer, Timothy Smeeding, and Barbara Boyle Torrey, eds., The
Vulnerable (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press, 1988); Susan Houseknecht
and Jaya Sastry, "Family 'Decline' and Child Well-Being: A Comparative
Assessment," Journal of Marriage and the Family 58 (1996); Sara McLanahan
and Irwin Garfinkel, "Single-Mother Families and Social Policy: Lessons for the
United States from Canada, France, and Sweden," pp. 367-83 in K. McFate, R.
Lawson, W. J. Wilson eds., Poverty, Inequality, and the Future of Social
Policy: Western States in the New World Order (New York: Russell Sage
Foundation, 1995). Michael J. Graetz and Jerry L. Mashaw, True Security.
Rethinking American Social Insurance (New Haven: Yale University Press,
48. Marcia K. Meyers, Janet C. Gornick, and Laura R. Peck. 2001. "Packaging
Support for Low-Income Families: Policy Variation Across the U.S. States,"
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 20, no. 3: pp. 457-483.
50. President's Council of Economic Advisors, The Effects of Welfare Policy
and the Economic Expansion of Welfare Caseloads: An Update (Washington, D.C.:
Council of Economic Advisors, 1999).
51. 2000 Kids Count Data Online,
52. Jennifer Steinhauer, "States Proved Unpredictable in Aiding Uninsured
Children," New York Times, September 28, 2000. See also Leighton Ku and
Brian Bruen, "The Continuing Decline in Medicaid Coverage" Series A, No. A-37
(Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 1999); Sheila Zedlewski and Sarah Brauner,
"Are the Steep Declines in Food Stamp Participation Linked to Falling Welfare
Caseloads?" Series B, No. B-3 (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 1999).
53. Rachel Schumacher and Mark Greenberg, Child Care After Leaving Welfare:
Early Evidence from State Studies. Washington, D.C.: Center for Law and
Social Policy, 1999). On the added costs of child care and care-giving activities
for low-income families, see Jody Heymann, The Widening Gap: Why America's
Working Families Are in Jeopardy and What Can Be Done about It (New York:
Basic Books, 2000).
54. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Money Income and Poverty
in the U.S., 1999. Figures for 2000 from
55. Patricia Ruggles, Drawing the Line. Alternative Poverty Measures and Their
Implications for Public Policy ( Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press,
1990); Constance Citro and Robert Michael, eds. Measuring Poverty: A New
Approach (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Science, 1995); Jared
Bernstein, Chauna Brocht, Maggie Spade-Aguilar, How Much is Enough? Basic
Family Budgets for Working Families (Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy
57. David Ellwood and Jeffrey B. Liebman, "The Middle Class Parent Penalty: Child
Benefits in the U.S. Tax Code," Manuscript, John F. Kennedy School of Government,
Harvard University, Boston, MA., 2000.
58. Robert Cherry and Max Sawicky, "Giving Tax Credit Where Credit is Due,"
Briefing Paper (Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute, April 2000).
Available at http://www.epinet.org/briefingpapers/eitc.html.
59. Ronald B. Mincy, "Marriage, Child Poverty, and Public Policy," American
Experiment Quarterly, 4:2 (Summer 2001): pp. 68-71. See also Wendy
Sigle-Rushton and Sara McLanahan, "For Richer or Poorer?" manuscript, Center for
Research on Child Well-Being, Princeton University.
60. Julianne Malveaux, "More Jobs, Not More Marriages, Lift Poor," U.S.A.
Today, February 22, 2002, p. 15A.
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