Georgians look past government to solve child poverty

America’s five-decade war on poverty has made quite clear which social ill is most closely tied to child poverty. Yet, we haven’t taken the first shot at it. Fortunately, some Georgians are finally ready to take the fight where it needs to go.

I’m talking about the breakdown of the two-parent family and births out of wedlock. No other social factor comes closer to explaining why some people are poor and others aren’t.

Not education: In Georgia, the child of two married high school dropouts is less likely to be poor than the child of a single mother who has taken some college classes. More striking, a single mother with a college degree is more likely to live in poverty than are two married high school grads with a child.

Education matters. It’s just not the most important factor when it comes to child poverty.

Nor is race or ethnicity: Poverty rates are higher in Georgia for blacks and Hispanics than for whites. However, a white single parent is almost four times more likely to be poor than are married black parents, and slightly more likely than are married Hispanic parents. Births to unwed women are rising across racial groups.

Perhaps no statistic gets at it more quickly than these two: Three-quarters of poor families with children in Georgia are unmarried. And marriage drops the probability of child poverty in Georgia by 82 percent.

“The collapse of marriage … is the primary reason that you have child poverty,” the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector said Wednesday in Atlanta.

Rector was in town at the behest of the Georgia Family Council, which just launched a multiyear initiative called Breakthrough Georgia to address the real roots of poverty.

While GFC will seek some new legislation to help the cause, it’s not going to wait around for government solutions. The idea is to find private experts and community groups close to the problems, and raise private funds to pay for the programs they develop.

“Government can only do so much,” said GFC President Randy Hicks, especially when it’s already “stretched thin” financially. And existing welfare programs often exacerbate the problem by giving more money to mothers who aren’t married.

The first task is to identify why so many Georgia women are having children before marriage — already 45 percent of all births in the state and, without action, likely a majority within five years, Rector predicted.

It’s not just teens. There are twice as many unwed births to mothers over 30 than to mothers under 18. Sixty percent are to women in their 20s.

Nor is it a matter of disdain for marriage, Rector said: “These mothers … esteem the institution of marriage.”

“[But] their understanding of it tends to be idealized,” he said, “like you only marry when you’re in the middle class.”

For a starting place, Rector said, Breakthrough Georgia simply needs to tell women unmarried births are a problem.

“If you want to reduce a behavior in society, you have to tell people,” he said, making an analogy to smoking. “You have never told a single one of these young women … that having a child without being married is the royal root to persistent child poverty.”

The compounding effect of generation after generation of unwed mothers means we are “effectively dividing into two social castes,” Rector said. One with the social knowledge to save child-rearing for marriage, and one without it.

Much of the inequality in society flows from that gap. That’s the gap to bridge.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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223 comments Add your comment

Michael H. Smith

October 21st, 2011
6:08 pm

Oh this one (the topic) should be good, even if it does deteriorate very quickly.

carlosgvv

October 21st, 2011
6:12 pm

Those in Government have known for many years now that out-of-wedlock mothers raising children by themselves is one the main reasons for poverty. Since the years of LBJ and The Great Society one social experiment after another has tried to solve this problem with little, if any, success. So, don’t expect The Heritage Foundation or The Georgia Family Council or any Georgia politicians to have any effect on this problem. I don’t really think it will ever be solved except by nature, and nature can be very cruel.

Michael H. Smith

October 21st, 2011
6:12 pm

How about this Kyle: Marriage is to blame for near economic parity between black and white America,
do you believe it?

MarkV

October 21st, 2011
6:14 pm

This is one topic where I agree with Kyle.

JKL2

October 21st, 2011
6:22 pm

Everybody has an excuse for not working. My back hurts. My feet hurt. I’m only five…

Michael H. Smith

October 21st, 2011
6:40 pm

In fact Kyle, take the so-called “smoking analogy” – in reality it translates as society exerting “peer pressure” – to the “social values bank” my friend. The best way to change “social behavior” is through “social peer pressure” and not via “social engineering” or “legislating morals”, both of which have been proven less effective.

Shaniqua

October 21st, 2011
6:46 pm

Long as the government keeps paying us to download little future Democrats that’s what we’ll do. America does not have the backbone to shut off the welfare machine.

jconservative

October 21st, 2011
6:51 pm

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted in his 1965 study popularly known as The Moynihan Report.

midtownguy

October 21st, 2011
7:44 pm

I agree 100%. But the same people who decry out of wedlock births oppose sex education in the schools and the distribution of birth control (but they are all in for Abstinence Education). Women need to quit having children out of wedlock. The best way for that to happen is to first tell them how to keep from getting pregnant then give them the supplies to do that while keeping abortion safe and legal.

Hillbilly D

October 21st, 2011
7:45 pm

It’ll be a long hard fight to turn this thing around. It’t taken 50 or so years to get to where we are and that’ll take a long time to reverse.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 21st, 2011
8:16 pm

There are obviously too many easy women in the state.

@@

October 21st, 2011
8:17 pm

Not gonna step into this one, except to say…The Sexual Revolution was a tremendous loss for women and children.

All NOW ever wanted was for women to be “free” while men paid child support. Stickin’ it to men at the “expense of children”.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 21st, 2011
8:18 pm

Of course people are having babies out of wedlock. We pay them when they do.

End the gravy train for these idiots. And if they can’t support the children they have, arrest them for child endangerment and adopt the kids out.

@@

October 21st, 2011
8:21 pm

Let’s not forget. NOW was a privileged organization of career women. Problem is ALL women, young and impoverished believed what they were selling.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 21st, 2011
8:23 pm

Out of wedlock births and every negative thing that results from that is just another government-caused problem. And when I say “government”, I of course mean “Democrats”.

catlady

October 21st, 2011
8:26 pm

Kyle, read the book “Promises I Can Keep,” an anthropological study of why poor women put childbirth before marriage.

JF McNamara

October 21st, 2011
8:37 pm

Women’s lib changed everything. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle unless you convince women that they have to get married and stay married. Interesting stat coming from the women’s lib era:

“The number of divorced people quadrupled between 1970 and 1996, from 4.3 million to 18.3 million.”

Before women’s lib, women were second class citizens. They had to get married and getting divorced made you a societal pariah. Now that women have options, they don’t need to put up with men’s garbage and they aren’t.

Maybe educating people will help, but everyone already knows that staying together is best for your kids. People don’t care. We’re better off accepting the new reality of free, independent women and working on solutions that cater to the new realities of our society.

Tiberius - Your lightning rod of hate!

October 21st, 2011
8:39 pm

“While GFC will seek some new legislation to help the cause, it’s not going to wait around for government solutions.”

Good for them. Maybe at some point people will realize that government cannot cannot legislate nor fix social problems.

yuzeyurbrane

October 21st, 2011
8:50 pm

Kyle, what about S. Ga. Boys Clubs going belly-up? You drive in a dreamworld where the private sector fairy takes care of everything. Won’t happen. Didn’t in the Depression; won’t now. Funds for private charity will dry up and they will be overwhelmed into bankruptcy. Keep your day job Kyle.

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
9:08 pm

Well, when people stopped going to church and lost their morals, they lost the need to get married. It was do your own thing whenever and whatever you feel like doing.

The morals taught at church held families together and children thrived. Strangely enough,a large number of people decided that was foolish. Being moral went out of fashion and now they wonder why children suffer. They are searching for a solution when it has been around forever.

Christians are not perfect and many fail while trying. But the best commandments for a good life are right in the Bible. The Christian also believes in a salvation that was given to them and to all.

Keep searching, folks, but it is right there for you. Love one another, respect your wife and children and others, and stay away from the traps of life. It won’t take the troubles of life away from you but you can face it when unbetrayed love exists in your life.

There’s the solution to child poverty, the poverty of love and the poverty of need. The unselfish moral thing has seldom failed!

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 21st, 2011
9:31 pm

What are you tryin’ to do, Dusty, ruin somebody’s good time?

I Report (-: You Whine )-: Thee Magnificent!!! mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

October 21st, 2011
9:40 pm

The way to solve this problem is that we all become liberals and kill the babies before they are born.

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
9:43 pm

I’m sorry, Lil Barry. Not wanting to ruin somebody’s good time. Just trying to make it better. Honest!!

@@

October 21st, 2011
9:51 pm

I knew I’d read something recently. PBS Frontline offers some insight.

Are the Conservatives Right?

For decades, liberals have run away from the issue of marriage and singleparenthood, afraid of stimatizing unwed mothers and their children. Now some are wondering whether the conservative marriage movement, embraced by President Bush, is on to something. Can government help poor communities by promoting marriage? The answer, writes FRONTLINE correspondent Alex Kotlowitz, is not simple. But it’s a question he can no longer ignore.

Maybe there’s hope, Kyle. GFC could drag liberals (kicking and screaming) into their program.

I’ve always believed Democrats want their constituents to remain poor. It helps ‘em retain power.

catlady:

The author of your “Promises” was mentioned in the article.

The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a long-term survey of 5,000 low-income couples sponsored by a consortium of universities, has found that eight out of 10 couples surveyed planned to marry. “I was out in the field all of the time, interviewing low-income single mothers,” Kathy Edin, the director of the study, told me. “And what really struck me in those interviews was how many people talked about the desire to get married. And I would go back, you know, and talk to my friends in academia, and they would say, ‘Oh, they can’t mean that.’ But I would hear it again and again.”

Still, although attitudes appear to be changing, there hasn’t been a rush to the altar. In fact, Kathy Edin’s survey has found that while most of the couples interviewed intend to wed, they never get there.

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
9:52 pm

OOOO I report, 9:40

That one’s a bit overboard, doncha think?

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
9:58 pm

@@,

I wonder if those (doing studies) have gotten back to the idea that single mothers lose many benefits if they get married. I’m not even sure that is still true.

Browncoat

October 21st, 2011
9:58 pm

Child poverty is not the problem, it is a symptom of a larger problem. So if we ask the question “how do we solve shild poverty” we are asking the wrong question. First, ask why child povery exists.

@@

October 21st, 2011
10:00 pm

Have I been banned from here too? My comments are “awaiting moderation”. I can assure you, they’re very moderate comments…excerpts from the PBS FRONTLINE.

@@

October 21st, 2011
10:10 pm

Dusty:

single mothers lose many benefits if they get married.

I’m fairly certain that’s still the case.

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
10:14 pm

@@,

Only Kyle can answer but there’s probably an automatic moderator with buzz words that have more than one meaning. Or something!!!

PBS FRONTLINE sounds innocent to me. I’ve got my tent. Let’s PROTEST (when the weather gets warmer!).

@@

October 21st, 2011
10:15 pm

First, ask why child povery exists.

Okay! Why?

@@

October 21st, 2011
10:17 pm

Okay, I figured it out. It’s the word “knee-gro” (proper spelling). Moynihan’s word, not mine.

@@

October 21st, 2011
10:25 pm

Checkin’ out!

SeeB

October 21st, 2011
10:26 pm

@@ – Couple of questions…

On what do you base your opinion that “Democrats want their constituents to remain poor?” – The people of whom you speak probably do not bother vote. They are more than likely unaware of how policy affects them.

Also, at some point in the 8 years Bush was in office, I believe the Republicans had complete control of both houses. If the Republican party was so concerned about the issue of tax payers paying for out of wedlock/poor children, they could have dealt with it by passing some type of legislation. Did they do that? No they did not.

Single mothers lose benefits if they get married – Welfare reform took place during Clinton’s administration with the support of Republicans. One can no longer receive welfare benefits for a lifetime. The new lifetime benefit is to have your child declared “learning disabled” so the child can receive SSI benefits for life. The Bernie Marcus Center in downtown Atlanta has tested/labled many children to be “learning disabled”. Wonder what the kickback is for the center.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward)

October 21st, 2011
10:38 pm

More government, more out of wedlock births.
More government, more poverty.
More government, worse education system.
More government, less manufacturing.
More government, more financial train wrecks.

No trend there.

ld

October 21st, 2011
10:39 pm

Public schools have become as much social mixer as education center. Would like for Georgia to pioneer public/charter high schools that are oriented for “national guard” preparedness.: emphasis on common sense and character and self discipline, physical fitness and fundamentals of education w/atmosphere geared to learning to enjoy learning and practical thinking, including that the students learn cause and effect of habits–good and bad (health, $, etc) and are imbued w/understanding that the purpose of childhood education is to INCREASE the options of the individual adult. (yes, w/uniforms),

ld

October 21st, 2011
10:41 pm

Government, in and of itself, is NOT the problem–citizen apathy & and pursuit of personal agenda by gov’t officials, including greed/corruption are.

ld

October 21st, 2011
10:46 pm

Really bad marriages are harmful to children–especially if what the children are learning is how people should NOT treat each other and believe it is the way people should treat each other.

JKL2

October 21st, 2011
10:54 pm

Dusty- single mothers lose many benefits if they get married

My wifes best friend has two hearing impaired children. She got “divorced” because they found out she could get alot more money from the government as a single parent. The only thing that changed was they hyphenated her maiden name in front of theirs.

ld

October 21st, 2011
10:55 pm

TO: every self-rightous “conservative” on the issue of a woman’s reproductive right. First, it takes TWO to make a baby–get the guys to keep it in their pants. Second, date rape happens a lot more than is reported.

When the right wing-nuts go after unwed fathers w/the zeal they go after unwed mothers, and if the men are any brighter than the women–or it costs them $$$– then the unwed birth rate is more likely to go down. Until then, give out free birth control, you financially support the babies born out of wedlock, adopt the children yourself, or shut up about abortion.

JKL2

October 21st, 2011
10:59 pm

The vast majority of prison inmates come from single family homes. It’s OK cause baby mama will keep popping them out.If you have enough kids, chances are that one of them will eventually love her enough to make up for her low self esteem issues.

ld

October 21st, 2011
11:01 pm

And midtown guy has the right idea: (1) sex education in school and for every unwed mom seeking gov’t assistance, including not just cause but effect–financial, impact on future choice– including social activities… of having a child (2) and birth control easily available — free or on sliding fee scale. (3) see above not to right-wingers.

ld

October 21st, 2011
11:02 pm

(3) sic “note” not not. late. sleepy. bye.

JKL2

October 21st, 2011
11:05 pm

ld- First, it takes TWO to make a baby–get the guys to keep it in their pants. Second, date rape happens a lot more than is reported.

First, maybe you should be a little more selctive in your dating process. Second, if you keep your pants on, we don’t have any problems. Women have the control. Quit encouraging babies to have babies.

It’s kind of like ending crime or poverty. Make it uncomfortable and embarrassing and people will work at ending those undesirable activities.

Dusty

October 21st, 2011
11:19 pm

JKL2,

All I can say for your wife’s friend is good luck. Hope they can continue to get help.

I don’t know the answers to child poverty. My thoughts have already been posted so I won’t repeat.

Anyway and off subject, I made the mistake of reading the blog for Political Insider. That is one sick blog today. Never read so much hate and most of it for Bush & Cheney, or any Republican. I understand differences of opinion but that one is out of control.

Sorry to get off subject. I have enjoyed reading some sensible thoughts here. I leave with that in mind on this cold evening in Atlanta. G’nite.

Lynn43

October 21st, 2011
11:19 pm

For every single mother there is also a single father-somewhere. This is a two-sided problem which has to be addressed from all angles to work.

td

October 21st, 2011
11:30 pm

Lynn43

October 21st, 2011
11:19 pm

I agree with you that it takes two to make a baby and that two should be responsible but I will submit that it is only women that can solve this problem. Women are in total control of sex. Men get to have sex when the woman says so and under what conditions the woman says. If all women stood up together and said no sex before marriage and no marriage before a good education and a good job, then guess what men would be doing?

problem solver

October 21st, 2011
11:33 pm

1. poor blacks having more kids then they can afford ie zero.
2. the catholic church not allowing birth control

you solve those two problems you’ll solve child poverty…worldwide.

SeeB

October 21st, 2011
11:43 pm

Lynn43 – I know my comment is going to sound sexist but…women, and only women, have the power to change the dichotomy.

Unfortunately, young women, especially those who are absent of fathers, do not understand this. Instead of respecting their body, they wager it as if it were the only thing they have to offer.

On the other side of the coin, women trying to raise sons…only few succeed. Most women coddle their sons, turn them into weak dependents.

The same women wonder why they can’t find a good strong man. You can’t find one because some young boys mother, not unlike you, craddled him. He was her baby, she never let him fall, but she wonders why she can’t find a good strong man. Look at yourself single mother, have / are you creating a strong independent man or are you /have you created a momma’s boy?

td

October 21st, 2011
11:58 pm

Kyle, Thank you for being brave enough to have this conversation. We are not going to solve the poverty problem, education problem, or crime problem in this state until we get this problem under control.

Part of the problem in this state has to do with family law. It is a subject Mr. Wooten would take on from time to time but no other journalist will even consider the subject. If you take the money and power out of the hands of the courts and place it back into the hands of the parents then divorce would not as attractive.