September 17, 2012
Put Your Money Where Your Marriage Is
Lindsay Smith, Intern
“16 and Pregnant,” “Teen Moms,” and countless other reality shows have popularized and perhaps even glamorized the lives of unmarried mothers in our society. In addition, the trend of popular female celebrities becoming single mothers furthers the attention. While Hollywood portrays this family structure as desirable and even empowering for women, the true hardships of single motherhood are not always given their just time in the spotlight. Let me be clear, I applaud single and unwed mothers for choosing life for their babies, a valiant decision in a culture which all but hands them a “get out of motherhood free” card. No, the solution to the plight of the single mother does not come from abortion, but rather from Marriage.
The Houston Chronicle recently released an article titled “Figures show struggle worsening for single mothers,” which shares the stories and struggles of several single moms straining to make ends meet. According to the article, “41 percent of households headed by single women with children live in poverty – nearly triple the national poverty rate, according to 2010 census data.” This percentage alone should seize our attention. However, combine it with the fact that more than half of single mothers over age twenty rely on public assistance, and these statistics don’t softly whisper for concern. They deafeningly cry for action – or should I say results. Many in government have championed action through the years: job training, GED programs, welfare. These actions seem to only create a treadmill – lots of movement but no upward mobility – and find many of their recipients in the same place year after year. At the article’s conclusion, Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation summarizes it best: “The welfare state has been about picking up the pieces from non-marital births, and it’s not working. The reality is that you can’t create a substitute father.”
MARRI’s studies confirm Mr. Rector’s assertion. An intact married family has the highest average income and net worth and experiences less poverty than other family types, all of which carries over to their children’s well-being. On the reverse side, according to these studies, “A non-intact family background increases by over 50 percent a boy’s odds of ending up in the lowest socioeconomic level.” Family structure has not only immediate effects but also intergenerational effects on a child’s economic status. Females who grow up in an intact married family are far less likely to have a non-marital pregnancy than those who were raised in an always single-parent family. In case anyone is tempted to think this only applies to single mothers, studies also show married men have a higher rate of employment than single men. Let’s not forget that God’s design was to give Adam both a job and a helper, who was Eve. Speaking of God’s design, learning about His plan for marriage and family appears to significantly affect this female demographic. The Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Survey reports that “urban mothers who attend church frequently are at least 70 percent more likely to be married when they give birth or to get married within one year of a nonmarital birth than are urban mothers who do not attend church frequently.”
As one of the moms in the Chronicle article poignantly expresses, “Sometimes I think I’m in a big hole and I can’t see the light, but then I know God is big and there’s something big for me.” And she is right. Perhaps we should all stop asking people what their temporary aid for single mothers would be, and remind ourselves of God’s unchanging, perfect (and big) plan for the family.