Marriage: Indiana’s No. 1 Weapon Against Childhood Poverty
Rachel Sheffield /
Children in Indiana born to single parents are more than six times more likely to live in poverty than children born to married parents. In fact, nearly three-quarters of all poor families in the state are headed by single parents.
According to a new Heritage report, the breakdown of marriage in Indiana is a major cause of the state’s poverty.
Unfortunately, as the data reveal, the rate of unwed births in the Hoosier State has grown dramatically over the last five decades, from just over 5 percent in 1960 to approximately 44 percent today. And rates are much higher for some groups: Nearly 80 percent of African-American children and close to 60 percent of Hispanic children in Indiana are born to single mothers.
While the increase of unwed births is often attributed to high teen birth rates, this report shows that births to young women under age 18 in fact make up a small portion of the state’s unwed births. The majority occur to women in their twenties. Many of these women lack a high school education and thus are the most likely to be poor. Yet, while education is a significant factor determining poverty, marriage significantly decreases poverty, even among families where the head of household never completed high school. Marriage has a similarly protective effect against poverty among all education levels.
Sadly, the story of high unwed birthrates is not unique to Indiana. These trends are similar across the United States.
Indiana is taking steps to address this problem, as are other states around the nation. All states should do the same. Such action could include providing information in low-income communities on the benefits of marriage through public education campaigns in high schools and at birth-control clinics. Lawmakers should also reduce marriage penalties in many of today’s current welfare programs.
Curbing the tide of unwed births and increasing the opportunity for a child to be born in a married-parent family is critical to decreasing poverty and giving American children and families the greatest chance for a promising future.
On Thursday, The Heritage Foundation co-sponsored an event with the Indiana Family Institute titled “Marriage: America’s No. 1 Weapon Against Child Poverty.” The event featured Heritage’s Robert Rector, Indiana State Representative Cindy Noe (R), Curt Smith (president) and Ryan McCann (director of Operations and Public Policy) of the Indiana Family Institute; Ryan Streeter, visiting fellow at the Sagamore Institute; and Dr. Ruth Lambert, founder of the Indiana Healthy Marriage and Family Coalition.