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May 2014 - Volume 22, Number 2


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Why We Should Say “Yes” to a Culture of Marriage

by Rachel Sheffield, The Heritage Foundation


Slate internet article published the week of April 21 suggests that because working-class men have more trouble today finding steady employment, women find it difficult to see them as good marriage partners. “For white working-class women,” the authors say, “it makes sense to stay single mothers.” While promoting pro-growth economic policy (as the authors propose) is important, retreating from marriage is not the answer. Restoring a marriage culture is essential for the welfare of men, women, and children.


Cultural changes have resulted in a society where unwed childbearing is acceptable and, in some communities, the norm. Tragically, the retreat from marriage and the rise of unwed births are associated with poorer outcomes, not only for men and women, but also for children and society.


Children born into single-parent homes are more than five times as likely to be poor compared to their peers from married-parent families. They are also less likely to graduate from high school (or college) and more likely to engage in delinquent behavior or abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have a higher probability of bearing or fathering children outside marriage.


Not only do these outcomes diminish opportunity for the future generations, they also prove costly to society. Roughly three-quarters of families on welfare are headed by single parents.


Restoring a marriage culture means striving to increase the number of children born to married parents. It means helping prepare young people for their marriage commitment. This is a culture in which men, women, and children are most likely to thrive, building the foundation of a strong society.


The reality is that although many single mothers aren’t marrying, it isn’t necessarily because they don’t want to be married. Many lower-income single mothers — and likely the same is true for working-class mothers — highly value marriage. They hesitate to marry, however, because they are afraid of a bad or failed marriage. They place marriage on a pedestal, believing that it’s something people do once they have arrived at a certain place in life rather than a step on the path to upward mobility.


It is crucial that effort is made at every level of society to help men and women — particularly those in low-income and working-class communities — build and maintain healthy marriages. Churches, charities, and other institutions should develop and carry out plans to help young adults achieve their dreams of healthy and stable marriages. Efforts should also be made to help couples maintain their marriages.


The trend of family breakdown must be reversed. Strong families are the nation’s most precious resource, and we need to get serious about building and maintaining them.


Reprinted with permission of the Heritage Foundation, The Foundry, originally published April 25, 2014, <>.


State of Iowa Income and CHildren in Poverty Data


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