Children who enjoy the luxury of a two parent household tend to grow up not only with more attention, but with a drastically decreased chance of living below the poverty line. The U.S. census finds the poverty rate for single parents in 2008 to be 35.6 percent, versus 6.4 percent for married couples with children.
The Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector, a senior research fellow, is a leading national authority on poverty in America. Rector finds that being married has the same effect on reducing poverty as adding five to six years to a parent's education level. Unfortunately, marriage is declining in America. In 1963, 93 percent of American children were born to married parents. Presently, that number has since dropped to 59 percent.
Rector describes this phenomenon as America's new caste system; with marriage and education as the dividing force between the haves and have-nots:
In the high-income third of the population, children are raised by married parents with a college education; in the bottom-income third, children are raised by single parents with a high school degree or less. Single parents now comprise 70 percent of all poor families with children.
Aside from having an increased chance of poverty, children without fathers also are:
- More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime
- Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems
- About twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school
- A third more likely to drop out before completing high school
Absentee fathers dramatically alter their children's lives. The job of being a parent cannot be taken lightly. While fathers significantly change their children's financial standing, they also influence educational attainment levels, decision making, and the potential onset of behavioral disorders. So what can be done to reverse the trend of declining marriage and increasing child poverty?
Rector suggests providing factual information in lower-income communities about the financial realities of marriage. Couples ought to know skills for selecting potential life partners and how to build stable relationships. Educating individuals on the benefits of marriage versus utilizing welfare would also be particularly useful to lower SES persons. It is impossible to expect this trend to change without disseminating information to low income groups to combat the norms, culture, and lack of knowledge that perpetuate it.
If you are lucky enough to have a fantastic father on this father's day, give thanks for all that he does. This is a day truly deserved by hard working fathers everywhere. For more information on family and religion in America, I recommend reading The Heritage Foundations's Leadership for America initiative here.