Strengthening Marriage To Reduce Poverty Is Where We Must Start

At a capitol press conference today The Family Foundation urged Governor Tim Kaine (contact) to add a working group to his Poverty Reduction Task Force that would address divorce, family fragmentation and out-of-wedlock births.  Joining Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb were Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico), Bob Ruthazer of First things First Richmond and our Marriage Commission, and Arne Owens, a former official in Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service.

Last month Governor Kaine announced the formation of a Poverty Reduction Task Force, with the goal of announcing policy proposals to address poverty in the Spring of 2010, after the Governor's final legislative session. The Family Foundation faxed a letter to Governor Kaine yesterday urging him to add a new working group to his poverty task force. The letter stated that the most important single factor in reducing poverty in our Commonwealth is protecting and rebuilding the family. Social science overwhelmingly proves that the best safety net, indeed the best deterrent to poverty, is an intact, married, two-parent, mom-and-dad family. Not that we need statistics to prove what we know instinctively.

According to University of Virginia sociologist Brad Wilcox, and a member of The Family Foundation's Marriage Commission (of which the governor had an observer-member):

"The collective consequences of marriage are quite large. If we were to increase the percent of children living in married homes to the level we experienced in 1970, scholars estimate that 1 million fewer children each year would be suspended from school; 900,000 fewer children each year would engage in acts of delinquency or violence; and 61,000 fewer children each year would attempt suicide. We would also see child poverty drop by approximately 20 percent, and Virginia welfare spending drop by millions. Clearly, marriage matters to Virginia — and particularly to education, public order, and the fiscal health of the Commonwealth."

As Victoria added in her letter to Governor Kaine, "It is simply not possible to adequately address the issue of poverty in our Commonwealth without addressing the issues of family break up and family fragmentation."

Further buttressing the case for marriage is the excellent commentary written by Delegate Janis last Sunday in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It detailed the importance of the two-parent home, particularly fathers, in the economic, educational, and emotional development of children. As we approach Father's Day, we are seeking to engage lawmakers, candidates and the media in a discussion about the value of the family and its ability to address the issue of poverty.

The Family Foundation, and the pro-family citizens we represent, often are criticized as not caring about issues of social justice. Usually, this criticism centers around one primary problem — poverty. This criticism is inaccurate and misses the point of the many initiatives and principles for which we advocate. The fact is that many of the issues we support address the issue of poverty at the root and not simply at the symptom. Parental choice in education for example, will help children in poverty become better educated to be able to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them. Such proposals involve less government, not more. Unfortunately, it seems that in our current cultural lexicon, social justice equals government spending — which, in fact, is counter productive.

The positive impact of marriage and children born in wedlock is undeniable and supported by science. Increasing the number of marriages, strengthening existing marriages and restoring marriage to its rightful place as an honored and encouraged union are goals that must be reestablished in our culture and in our public policy. If we are truly serious about reducing poverty in our Commonwealth, that is where we have to start.