Correlating Poverty With Marriage Distracts From the Actual Problems Driving Poverty

“All of these marriage-promotion policies were based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the link between poverty and marriage,” says Kristi Williams, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University and a research associate at the Council on Contemporary Families. “They’re assuming people are poor because they don’t marry, when I would say there’s much more evidence that it’s poverty that deters people from marriage.”

Fractured family structures don’t cause poverty. Poverty causes these family structures. Reduce poverty through more direct means, and we might actually reverse the retreat of marriage along the way.

Ari Fleischer wrote an editorial in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week suggesting that income inequality could be fought through marriage. The week before, Emily Badger had a piece in Atlantic Cities arguing precisely why this line of thinking is ill-conceived. Margaret Simms, a fellow at the Urban Institute and director of its Low-Income Working Families Project points out an obvious flaw: “You cannot solve poverty by just marrying people if — jointly — they cannot generate sufficient income to raise a family above poverty.”

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