Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Family structure and poverty

I hadn't realized just how strong is the correlation between family structure and poverty until I happened upon this quotation from James Q. Wilson:

"You need only do three things to avoid poverty in this country: finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after the age 20.  Only 8% of families who do this are poor; 79% of those who fail to do this are poor."  

Now, Wilson implies causality (family structure -> poverty) and responsibility (all the individual) which could be questioned, but, still, the magnitude of the association is startling.  


ParentJobNet Staff said...

That's an interesting comment. Though there are some people that have kids before 20. Graduating high school might not mean much since people aren't always that smart.
Education plays a huge role in helping to eliminate poverty.

Aydan said...

That's interesting. By "marry before having a child" does he mean that you have to get married to avoid poverty, or that if you are going to have a child it should be in wedlock?

And do you know when the data to support this was collected, that is, what time period is it relevant to?

Brad Wright said...

I read the quotation in a different context, so I don't know the data involved. Though I suppose it would be available on the U.S. statistical abstract.

Michael Kruse said...

Twice in one day this topic has come up. In a post I wrote a couple years ago, I showed that poverty rates for two parent households, female headed households households, and independent adult households have all declined significantly but the total poverty rate is up. More households have shifted into the single parent and independent categories, where the poverty rates are magnitudes higher. The decline in the percentage of households in poverty is offset by the balloning total count of households in these categories. Had types of households stayed constant we would have had poverty at less than 9%.

Article here.

Brad Wright said...

Thank you Michael.