Glenn Stanton – Christianity Today 13 July 2012
Just 60 years ago, those who had stable employment were seldom poor. Forty years ago, education became the gulf which separated the haves from the have-nots. For the past 20 years or more, though, the unexpected factor in whether our neighbors and their children rise from poverty is marital status. Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institute, explains: “The proliferation of single-parent households accounts for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since the early 1970s.”
The Christian’s attention to the well-being of marriage among the various strata of society is about far more than mere traditionalism or empty moralism. Marriage is unarguably a central love of neighbor issue.
Bill Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings who served as President Clinton’s domestic policy advisor, has explained 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 percent of people who do these three things are poor, while a stunning 79 percent who fail to meet these expectations live in poverty.
Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute makes important observations of how marital status is related to poverty in his important new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. In 1960, the poorly and moderately educated were only 10 percent less likely to be married than the 94 percent of college-educated Americans who were married. The comparison between the two groups largely held until 1978. Today, these two groups are separated by a 35 percent margin.