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The Big Answer

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Poverty in the U.S.

an article by our site

Child poverty is a serious national concern, but few are aware of its principal cause: the absence of married fathers in the home. According to the U.S. Census, the poverty rate for single parents with children in the United States in 2009 was 37.1 percent. The rate for married couples with children was 6.8 percent. Being raised in a married family reduced a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 82 percent. Also important for poverty reduction: education. A full 58.8% of single high-school drop-outs are in poverty, but only 24.0% of married drop-outs. On the other hand, 10.6% of single college graduates are in poverty, but only 1.8% of married college graduates.(Source: Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty, Robert Rector, The Heritage Foundation, 2012)

Child poverty in US 1970-2011
Child poverty in US 1970-2011

So marriage is statistically a great way to avoid poverty, and especially child poverty, but that's just statistics. Why buy the cow if the milk is free? If half of marriages fail, and many that don't fail are unhappy, a lot of people figure: why bother? Getting married doesn't change the poverty issue. If a couple remain faithful and present, the marriage won't help. These days, couples can get the benefits of marriage (sex, kids, companionship) without making it official by marrying.

Why buy the cow if the milk is free? (Why marry if you get as much sex without committing to marriage?)
Why buy the cow if the milk is free? (Why marry if you get as much sex without committing to marriage?)

Face it: marrying is risky, they feel. Once you do it, you may find out that once the romantic illusions fade, your Mr./Ms. Right is a pain in the tail, irresponsible, overdependent, unfaithful, bad with kids, etc. Men are generally expected to buy a very expensive ring in order to marry, and for women, wedding dresses are not free, and neither are divorces—which cost even more emotionally than financially. So the "safest" type of relationship is to stay unmarried and do all the things couples do but if one of the two gets tired of the other, walk away—no harm no foul. Right? Not exactly. Once kids appear, the stresses multiply like crazy, as do the expenses. The guy can simply split to avoid all this, often plunging the woman below the poverty level. The guy walks off sadder but wiser, avoiding the whole mess. Except for the child support payments which will burden him for many years.

Impregnating women when single may result in child support payments for many years
Impregnating women when single may result in child support payments for many years

"According to the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, $108 billion in total back payments was owed to parents with custody of children in 2009. If those payments aren't made and the children then need to go on public assistance, payments are supposed to be made to the government in the form of reimbursement. About 49% of that back money—or roughly $53 billion—is owed to the government." "The government has several ways to make people pay up: it can garnish paychecks and intercept tax refunds, to name two. With child support payments set at 17% of one's income for one child, it doesn't take long out of the workforce to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt. And payments rise incrementally for multiple children." (Source:

In 1978, 17 percent of all children under eighteen lived in poverty; in 1990 the rate was 25 percent; in 2012 the rate was 21.4%. Run-down housing, overcrowding, heavy traffic, accidents, violence, abuse, neglect, lack of health care are stress-inducing conditions, which, when combined with lack of control over their lives, excessive demands, unsatisfied needs and expectations, overstimulation, and role conflicts, cause anxiety, depression, uneasiness, apathy, alienation and hypochondria. Stress causes physiological reactions in internal systems—including organs and nervous, endocrine, and hormonal systems, and if prolonged, leads to ill health. In 1986 a WHO report mentioned the high prevalence of somatic symptoms from psychological and social distress. Current and future health problems can't be solved unless we consider all components of the total human ecosystem. (Source: Levi, Lennart, "Stress in the Modern World," The Courier, June 1987, pp. 27-30)

child poverty
Child poverty

In September of 1991 the poverty rate in the U.S. increased for the first time since 1983. Median household income decreased. Welfare rolls had increased for 22 consecutive months and were at an all-time high in U.S. history. In addition, those not covered by health insurance rose from 13.6 percent in 1989 to 14 percent—mostly because of loss of employment which is usually the source of health insurance. In 2010 it was over 16 percent—49 million people.

In 1990, 13.5 percent or 33.6 million Americans were living below the poverty line (up from 12.8 percent in 1989). The poverty line was drawn at a yearly income of $13,359 for a family of four in 1990 and $6,652 for a single person. The highest poverty rate was in Mississippi (25.0%), the lowest in Connecticut (4.3%). In 2011, the official poverty rate for Americans in general held at 15 percent, meaning that 46.2 million people live below the poverty line. (Source: "Record U.S. Poverty Rate Holds As Inequality Grows," Businessweek, Karen Weise Sept. 12, 2012)

In 1991, one third of the homeless (in 27 cities) were families with children
In 1991, one third of the homeless (in 27 cities) were families with children

One third of the homeless (in 27 cities) were families with children in 1991. Twenty four percent of their requests for emergency shelter could not be met. In these cities, requests by families with children for emergency food assistance had increased 14 percent in recent years. In 1991, one out of 19 Americans was receiving some sort of welfare. (Source: Johnson, Haynes, statement on Washington Week in Review, January 31, 1992. One out of six is the statistic in New York state for those receiving welfare)

From 2009 to 2011, the nation’s homeless population decreased 1 percent, or by about 7,000 people; it went from 643,067 in 2009 to 636,017 in 2011. There were a decreased number of people experiencing homelessness in most of the subpopulations examined in this report: families, individuals in families, chronic, and individuals. Decreases were due to significant investment of federal resources to prevent homelessness and quickly re-house people who did become homeless. The only increase was among those unsheltered—living in cars, boxes, etc. The largest decrease was among homeless veterans, whose population declined 11 percent. The number of homeless veterans went from 75,609 in 2009 to 67,495 in 2011, a reduction of about 8,000. The national rate of homelessness was 21 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population. The rate for veterans was 31 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population. (Source: "The State of Homelessness in America 2012", National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2012)

Unemployment is a big cause of homelessness
Unemployment is a big cause of homelessness

There are many causes of homelessness, such as the deinstitutionalization movement that let the mental patients loose from the mental institutions and called it "community treatment," which led to them committing lots of crimes and getting imprisoned, where at least there was food and shelter. Another cause: redevelopment and gentrification activities whereby low-income housing (slums) were replaced by higher-income housing. Also: unemployment is a big cause. Another cause: failure of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide effective mental health care and meaningful job training for many homeless veterans. And another cause: natural disasters like floods and tornados. Then there's foster children, half of whom are homeless once they are released at age 18. (Source:

Although many wish to dispute the definition of poverty (the government figures exclude home ownership, welfare income, and food stamps), applying other definitions of poverty did not change the fact that the poverty rate is increasing. (Source: Rich, Spencer, "More Americans in Poverty," Washington Post, September 27, 1991)