Living in Poverty? Get Married, Conservatives Say

Members of a panel on poverty at the conservative Faith and Family Coalition’s annual Road to Majority Conference in Washington, DC had a somewhat predictable solution for low-income Americans trying to move up the economic ladder – get married, stay married and don’t have a child until you’ve gotten married.

“It really does come down to marriage and the family,” said Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

But is marriage really the answer to economic woes? The conservative Heritage Foundation would say yes – they call marriage “America’s No. 1 weapon against child poverty.”

They are right in one respect – only one in eight children with two married parents live below the poverty line, while five in 10 living with a single mother do. But many researchers say the decline in marriage is a byproduct of falling economic opportunity, not a cause of poverty.

“Globalization, the decline of labor unions, technological change and other tidal economic forces have battered the poor, with years of economic growth failing to lift their prospects,” writes economics reporter Annie Lowrey in the New York Times Magazine. “These forces have inevitably affected young people’s choices, researchers think.”

More realistic solutions include raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which would benefit 2.8 million working single parents; helping millions balance the demands of work and family by expanding access to preschool and affordable child care; and investing in job training to people transition to new and more lucrative careers.