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Family and Poverty

On Father’s Day 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama spoke at the Apostolic Church in Chicago. He spoke about families and how tragic it is that half of all black children live in single-parent homes. He said this rate had doubled during his lifetime, and he lamented that “fathers have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

The presidential candidate spoke of the societal ills caused by this weakening of the family. It results in poor education, higher crime and rising poverty. His remarks have application to every family of every race in America. The principles of two-parent homes and the advantages they give to children are undeniable.

For instance, in the 1960s the U.S. poverty rate was 13.3 percent. Forty years later, despite huge gains in our national wealth, the rate had only crept downward to 12.8 percent. Many have cited this number as proof that the economy during this time only rewarded the rich or the lucky. But the truth is that the poverty rate decreased dramatically for every single demographic group, no matter how you slice up the numbers. Married, unmarried, children or childless – the poverty rate decreased across the board. So why did the total rate drop so little?

This is why: The number of people living in single-parent homes has doubled since 1967 – and single-parent homes make up the group with the highest rate of poverty, with a staggering 40 percent poverty rate.

Think of how different the nation would be had the family not been weakened so dramatically over the last four decades. Poverty would be a fraction of what it is today. Ironically, it was during the ’60s that the federal government started its War on Poverty, vastly increasing the scope and cost of social welfare programs. It would have been better off pursuing policies that strengthened the institution of the family.

Dig deeper:

Journal article: Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations

News story: Obama sharply assails absent black fathers

Sutherland Paper: What Is a Family-Centered Economy?

Sutherland Paper: To the Least of These: A Moral Case for Providing Authentic Charity Care

Opinion column: O’Reilly and Trayvon cry for help, Mr. President

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