Children of divorce: Poverty

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Black children are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than are white children--but not because they are "born black in America," according to a new study from The Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis (CDA). Examining data from the U.S. Department of Labor's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, Heritage analysts determined that child poverty rates are driven primarily by single-parent households and dependency on welfare benefits. When these and other, less significant, factors are taken into account, the disparity between black and white child poverty rates disappears. "Race alone does not directly increase or decrease the probability that a child will be poor," says Robert Rector, Heritage's senior research fellow in welfare and family issues and a co-author of the report. The study notes that 68.8 percent of black American children were born out of wedlock in 1999, compared to 26.7 percent of white children. And black children were five times more likely to be dependent on Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the government's largest welfare program. Black children also live in poverty longer than whites-46.9 percent of their time since birth vs. 26.7 percent for whites. Yet when black children and white children are grouped by levels of single parenthood and welfare dependence the poverty rates for both groups are nearly identical, Rector found. The analysis also found that nearly half (44.5 percent) of all children born to never-married mothers depend on AFDC, compared to a fifth (20.4 percent) of those born out of wedlock, whose mothers later married. Only a tenth (10.7 percent) of the children born to married couples who subsequently divorce end up relying on AFDC, as do a mere 2.5 percent of those whose parents' marriages remain intact. The press release can be read below, and the entire paper, "Understanding Differences in Black and White Child Poverty Rates," is available online at Cited in a posting from Smart Marriages Listserv on May 29, 2001.

David Wood, researching for the journal Pediatrics, notes that "the majority of single-parent, female-headed families live in poverty, regardless of whether the mother works." He continues: "fifty-five percent of children who live in single-parent, mother-only families are poor, compared with only 10% of children in two-parent families." Thus, "almost one-third of children who are poor are poor because they live in a family headed by a single mother." Additionally, "sixty-five percent of children who are poor versus 25% of children who are not poor live in households that do not include their biological father."
Wood, David. (2003) Effect of child and family poverty on child health in the United States. Pediatrics, v112. Retrieved from The Family in America, April 2004.

"Ten percent of the nation's families are headed only by a woman, but 40 percent of the families classified as poor have female heads."
"The 51 Percent Minority Group," In Robin Morgan (ed.), Sisterhood Is Powerful (New York: Vintage Books, 1970), p.39.Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation.

Economic effects of no-fault on women and children (Parkman)
Bill establishing committee to study divorce (passed; includes provocative statistics)
Effects of divorce on low-income boys (1994 Cornell U. study)
Fact sheet on how Divorce Hurts Women, Men, and Kids x
Ability to pay for higher education
Why We Don't Marry , by James Q. Wilson 2001 (discusses many studies, and questions of correlation and causation, especially relating to poverty)

"Single mothers are nine times more likely to live in deep poverty than the married family, with incomes less than half of the official poverty line."
David J. Eggebeen and Daniel T. Lichter, "Race, Family Structure, and Changing Poverty Among American Children," American Sociological Review 56 (December 1991), 807. Cited on page31 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"Four times as many divorced women with children fell under the poverty line than married women with children. "
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1993, p. 385.

Study shows Va. count up 34% from '89 to '93
BY CARLOS SANTOS/ Times-Dispatch Staff Writer
"The number of poor children in Virginia grew by an astounding 34 percent from 1989 to 1993, according to a just-released University of Virginia study. Michael Spar, a demographer with U.Va.'s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, said a primary reason for the increase was a lack of a comprehensive anti-poverty program for children and increases in immigration and in the numbers of divorce and illegitimate births. . . . 'I was very much surprised,' said Spar, an associate professor at U.Va. "
RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH / Tuesday, November 18, 1997. Sent by the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, LLC

"Progress in the condition of children has slowed -- and in some cases trended downward -- since the 1960s. For instance, children's poverty rates steadily declined for decades to about 15 percent in the late 1960s; but now the poverty rate stands at just over 20 percent. (See graph) This is due to an increase in single, female-headed households, which have significantly higher poverty rates than their two-parent family counterparts (see graph)." Source: Naomi Lopez, "The State of Children: What Parents Should Know About Government's Efforts to Assist Children," PRI Project on Children Report No. 1, August 31, 1998, Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, 755 Sansome Street, Suite 450, San Francisco, Calif. 94111, (415) 989-0833.

"Eighty percent of children who grow up in a two-parent household never experience poverty during the first ten years of their lives. By contrast, only 27 percent of children living in single-parent households maintained the same high standard."
"No-Fault Divorce: Proposed Solutions to a National Tragedy," 1993 Journal of Legal Studies 2, 22, citing William Galston, A Liberal-Democratic Case for the Two-Parent Family, THE RESPONSIVE COMMUNITY 14, 17 (1990).

"Single and divorced mothers, because of their poverty, 'are able to give less social and financial support to their own adult kids.'"
Lynn White, "The Effects of Parental Divorce and Remarriage on Parental Support for Adult Children," Journal of Family Issues (June 1992): 234ff. Barbara Grissis, "Effects of Parental Divorce on Children's Financial Support for college." Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 22, no. 1/2 (1994): 155ff. Cited on page 44 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"According to the Census Bureau, children whose parents divorce are almost twice as likely to drop into poverty than they were before the marital split. Overall, children whose fathers leave the home see their household incomes plummet by 26 percent."
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Suzanne Bianchi and Edith McArthur, Family Disruption and Economic Hardship, U.S. Census Bureau, 1991. Cited in Kenneth Jost and Marilyn Robinson, "Children and Divorce:What can be done to help children of divorce," CQ Researcher, June 7, 1991, p. 358.

"The vast majority of children who are raised entirely in a two-parent home will never be poor during childhood. By contrast, the vast majority of children who spend time in a single-parent home will experience poverty."
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, quoting Harvard Prof. David Ellwood, Poor Support, (New York: Basic Books, 1988), p. 46.

"Children from female-headed homes are five times as likely to be poor as children in two-parent families and nine times as likely to be in deep poverty."
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing David Eggebeen and Daniel T. Lichter, "Race, Family Structure, and Changing Poverty among American Children," American Sociological Review, 56:6, p. 808.

"During the 1980's, for the first time in recent American history, single-parent families made up the majority of all poor families."
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Report of the National Commission on America's Urban Families, John Ashcroft, Chairman, "Families First," 1993, p. 25.

"90 percent of children of unwed mothers end up on welfare." ... "By 1987 over half the children receiving AFDC benefits qualified for the program because their parents were unmarried; their total numbers would account for over nine-tenths of all children for American never-married mothers." Eberstadt, "Infant-Morality," 42. Cited on page 94 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"A study shows that a divorce increases the father's odds of winding up in a low occupational stratum, and has decreased a family's ability to pass advantages on to their children."
Timothy J. Biblarz and Adrian E. Raftery, "The Effects of Family Disruption on Social Mobility," American Sociological Review 58 (1993): 97-109. Cited on page44 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

David Eggebeen and Daniel Lichter calculated that increasing family breakdown accounted for almost half the increase in child poverty in the eighties."
Eggebeen and Lichter, "Race, Family Structure," 801. Cited on page32 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"A child that is born out of wedlock is 30 times more likely to live in poverty than a child that was born in a marriage and whose parents stayed married."
National Center for Children in Poverty, Five Million Children, 29, Table 2. Cited on page32 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"The average child from a nonpoor family will suffer a 50 percent drop in income after divorce."
Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 1994), 24. Cited on page32 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

See also Halpern, Ariel. 1999. Poverty among Children Born Outside of Marriage-Preliminary Findings from the National Survey of America's Families. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

"A few years ago, Jennifer Garner, a Cornell professor, was struck by the
fact that only about 10% of her students came from divorced families. She
and a colleague got together and looked at other high ranking schools and
found the same thing; ninety percent of the students were from in tact

From a 2006 interview with Kay Hymowitz, author of "Marriage and Caste in
America", in an article titled "Marriage and Caste in America" By Jamie
Glazov,, December 5, 2006, posted at

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