Marriage, Poverty, and Public Policy

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
who marry.

The current pro-marriage agenda in anti-poverty policy is misguided for at
least four reasons:

  • Non-marriage is often a result of poverty and economic insecurity rather
    the other way around.
  • The quality and stability of marriages matters. Prodding couples into
    without helping them solve problems that make relationships precarious could
    leave them worse off.
  • Two-parent families are not immune from the economic stresses that put
    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
    economic advantages,
    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
    employment prospects.(22)

    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
    who do.(24)

    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
    married fathers.(25)

    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.

    Quality Matters

    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
    motherhood itself.(42)

    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
    paternal responsibilities.

    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
    merit assistance.

    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
    , 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 In 1999, 36
    percent of single-mother households lived in poverty. Poverty in the U.S.
    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
    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
    , 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">

    13. Pamela Smock, "Cohabitation in the U.S.: An Appraisal of Research Themes,
    Findings, and Implications," American Review of Sociology 26, no.1 (2000):
    pp. 1-20.

    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
    (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
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    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
    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
    Services 1996).
    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
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    (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,
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    (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
    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,
    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
    , 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
    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
    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
    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
    , 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
    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,
    TARGET="outlink"> Data
    for 2000 from CPS,

    44. Nancy Folbre, Who Pays for the Kids? Gender and the Structures of
    (New York: Routledge, 1994); Ann Crittenden, The Price of
    (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
    (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.

    49. Table 7-6, Green Book 2000. Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House
    of Representatives, 106th Congress. Available at

    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
    (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
    Institute, 2000).

    56. Robert Greenstein, "Should EITC Benefits Be Enlarged for Families with Three
    or More Children?" Washington, D.C.: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,

    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

    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.
    , February 22, 2002, p. 15A.

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