The Cause of People in Poverty<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Kerby <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Anderson
Why are people in poverty? There are lots of reasons, but it is surprising to discover how much marriage and children factor into the equation.
William Galston is a former advisor to President Clinton and has concluded that the primary cause of poverty in America today is the breakdown of marriage. By that he means the impact that out of wedlock births can have on whether a person lives in poverty. For example, U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the rate of poverty for single mothers is about five times as high as the rate of poverty for married households.
More specifically, William Galston has found that in order to avoid being poor you must do three things: (1) graduate from high school, (2) wait until age 20 to have children, and (3) wait until getting married to have children. He has found that only 8 percent of people who do those three things are poor. Put another way, young people who follow these three simple rules have a 92 percent chance of staying above the poverty line. By contrast, a young person who breaks just one of these rules, has a 79 percent chance of ending up below the poverty line.
I think you can see how much marriage and out of wedlock childbirth are such strong predictors of poverty. Obviously, this country has its share of entrenched, generational poverty. But it also shows how much lifestyle choices contribute to poverty.
Also consider that the 8 percent who do these three things and are still poor includes people who will be there temporarily. For example, it includes families where the father has lost a job. And it includes unskilled immigrants, who start out at the lowest rung of the income ladder but are able to improve their economic situation over time.
So during campaign season when you hear the rhetoric about helping the poor, remember what William Galston discovered when he worked in the Clinton administration. I'm Kerby Anderson, and that's my point of view.
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