Marriage and Poverty: The Most Vital Sign - Granite Grok

Marriage and Poverty: The Most Vital Sign

Couple Father Mother Baby Shoes

by Stephen Scaer  |

In Mark Hayward’s July 7 Union Leader article, “Manchester gets a checkup. Public health director reports on city’s vital signs,” misses the most crucial ‘vital sign.’ What percent of Manchester children are born in wedlock and are being raised by their biological mothers and fathers? 

The article cites the 35,000 people living below the poverty line in the city, the 28 percent reading proficiency among third-graders; the 1,691 cases before the Division for Children, Youth and Families, many of them involving drugs and alcohol; and the rate of mental distress, and suicide.  The cure, according to the article?  More government:  The Department of Health will create a neighborhood health improvement strategy.

But instead of turning to the government, why don’t we learn from the thousands of years of experience, from our parents, grandparents, and ancestors, and promote natural marriage?

We know that having the biological father in the household is the best protection against poverty and its consequences.

Nationally, children in father-absent homes are almost four times as likely to live below the poverty level.  Seven out of ten dropouts are fatherless, and children without fathers are more likely have difficulty with delayed gratification, to suffer physical and mental illness, attempt suicide, be incarcerated, and have drug and alcohol problems.  Children in homes with two parents are less likely to be sexually assaulted, and women are less likely to be abused by a husband than a boyfriend. Only 5 percent of married households are likely to be poor at some point during the year, compared to 30 percent of unmarried households, according to a Columbia University study.

The poor and minority populations have been particularly hard-hit by the decline in marriage since the sexual revolution.  While only 6 percent of children born to college-educated American mothers were born out of wedlock in 2009, 44 percent of children born to women without a high school education were born out of wedlock.   Among African Americans, 72 percent of children are born out of wedlock, while the rate for Hispanics is 53 percent.  If we were serious about social justice, we would provide each child with a father.

Natural marriage, the only institution that binds the biological parents with the child for life, is the natural solution; however, Democrats and many Republicans have recently turned their backs on marriage, some labeling those who support natural marriage as haters and bigots.  There is even a movement among liberal Republicans to remove references to traditional marriage from the platform.

It wasn’t always this way.  Not long ago, Democrats and Republicans recognized the importance of natural marriage.  As recently as 2010, President Obama initiated the Fatherhood, Marriage and Innovation Fund to promote fatherhood.  He reflected on how difficult it was for him to grow up without his father and said that having an absent father can lead children to drop out of school, abuse drugs and alcohol, and live in poverty.

“There are too many fathers missing from too many homes, missing from too many lives,” he said. “There is harm done to those kids.” Obama noted that although the state couldn’t “legislate fatherhood,” the initiative was intended to help local groups, including faith-based groups, that helped keep families together.  “Our children don’t need us to be superheroes, they don’t need us to be perfect, they need us to be present,” he said. “I think it’s time for a new conversation about fatherhood in this country,” he said. 

So when did that conversation end?   Public efforts to keep children with their biological parents fell silent as we moved toward same-sex marriage and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision. The implications of this are that marriage no longer exists as a structure for producing and raising children. It is primarily for the gratification of adults (a position consistent with no-fault divorce). And that children don’t need to be with their biological mothers and fathers.  Advocacy to keep children in a permanent union with their mothers and fathers is often seen as a criticism of same-sex marriage and an affront to the powerful LGBT lobby.

Until we recover from our amnesia and remember the definition and purposes of marriage and recall how much children need their mothers and fathers, we can expect children to suffer, and government agencies and programs to expand in reaction to the consequences.