Marriage and a state’s prosperity appear to be linked, according to a new report by the conservative American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies.
States with higher marriage rates, particularly among residents who are parents, are economically healthier, their populations more upwardly mobile, their children less apt to live in poverty, researchers found.
The report, “Strong Families, Prosperous States,” makes the case that impoverished children in those states that form the top quintile of married-parent families have 10.5 percent greater upward mobility compared to those in the lowest-quintile states. Their median family income is $3,654 higher. And they enjoy a 13.2 percent decline in the child poverty rate — even after researchers controlled for confounding factors like education levels, race, tax policies and education spending.
The report was released Wednesday during a half-day conference in Washington, D.C. It was written by sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, a scholar for AEI and the Institute for Family Studies who teaches at the University of Virginia; Robert I. Lerman, an institute fellow at the Urban Institute and a professor of economics at American University; and Joseph Price, an associate professor of economics and a researcher at Brigham Young University.
“What we’re finding is that when the family is strong, so too is the state economy, that state economic growth is higher, that state child poverty is lower, that state family median income is higher, that the American dream itself is stronger, that poor kids in states with stronger families are more likely to rise up the economic ladder as adults,” said Wilcox.
States with higher rates of unmarried parenthood, like New Mexico and Louisiana, have more child poverty. Those with more married-parent families have less child poverty, Wilcox said.
Keynote speaker Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, cited statistics that roughly 60 percent of children born to women under age 30 are born outside of marriage and noted that about two-thirds of women who are mothers before age 30 have had a baby in a nonmarital relationship. It’s a pattern, he said, that was noted in black families at the time of the Moynihan report 50 years ago, though the percentages were different. That was viewed as a racial crisis at the time. “This is an everyone crisis,” he said.
Utah has the highest percentage of parents with children under 18 who are married, according to the report’s data, taken from the 2013 Current Population Survey. New Hampshire, Minnesota, North Dakota and Idaho round out the top five. At the other end of the spectrum, South Carolina edges out Mississippi, Arkansas, Delaware and Louisiana for the lowest percentage of married parents of minor children.