There has been an interesting discussion brewing in social media about the benefits of marriage as they relate to “ending poverty”. It’s no mistake that this discussion is taking place now. We’re in an election year and politicians are pandering to their respective bases. Everyone, Democrat or Republican, wants to be seen as serious on the issue of poverty reduction, but as is to be expected, they cannot seem to agree on how to handle it. What’s even more frightening is that they cannot be seen as agreeing on how to tackle the issue. There’s a dirty word in Washington called “bipartisan”, and few politicians want to be called the “b” word.
The Heritage Foundation has termed marriage as “America’s #1 Weapon Against Childhood Poverty”, and for good reason. The statistics speak for themselves. Children who live in two parent households are less like to have behavioral problems and perform better in school. One in eight children with two married parents lives below the poverty line compared to the poverty of 65% of children residing in female-headed households. When you have a better foundation to launch from, it gives one the opportunity to build generational wealth. It takes three generations to build wealth: one to generate an idea, the second to perfect its method, and the third to propagate it.
The converse is true as well. A poverty mentality is generational.
As it relates to proliferation of childhood poverty, many have argued that this has more to do with the feminization of poverty than it has to do with the benefits of marriage. Women today make 72 cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same job. It is by no mistake that web designers and mechanics out earn daycare workers and teachers, despite the fact that neither job is more taxing than the other. Even in a society as egalitarian as ours (relatively speaking), there has long been a push to bar or discourage women from certain kinds of work or study – including math, science and mechanics – because it’s not considered suitable to their gender. It is only in recent years that there has been a push for STEM programs targeting young girls, especially African American girls, which I find particularly pleasing. No one has been more vilified and demonized for her poverty than the young, single Black mother.
It is well documented that poverty in the Black community was engineered by the American government. At its advent, it was stipulated that in order to get welfare benefits and social assistance, a poor mother had to be single with no male above the age of 18 (i.e. of working age) living in the home. Between 1960 and 1985 when the welfare culture exploded, under/unemployed Black males were driven from their homes to ensure the survival of their children. As a result, Black mothers took on the reluctant role of both mother and father and an entire welfare culture was created. It’s a daunting and humiliating experience. When I found myself pregnant and unwed with my first child, my first foray into the sordid world of welfare was to the WIC office on Roswell Rd in Sandy Springs. It’s as though every person hired in that office was screened for the ability to make a woman feel less than a failure, like she was born to be an intentional drain on society. I’ll never forget a blue and white sign that hung by the exit door that read “Get a job, so that your child will not be the next person on welfare”. I looked around at the young women: college students, retail and fast food workers, and para-professionals like myself, and wondered what they thought of it. For my part, I felt violently ill.
Isn’t it ironic that when a rural farmer applies for a government subsidy, he is not asked to put his wife out of the home to obtain it? Or when the CEOs of the banking and automobile industry went with cap in hand to the government for a bail out, they were not required to break up their families? But the government has no problem separating the families of the poor and colored. Interesting.
And no, we can’t blame this on one party or another. Both Republicans AND Democrats are guilty of the demise of the Black family. They created our nation’s dreaded Welfare Queens and crowned them with food stamps and SNAP cards. I wonder if they are proud.
It’s not often that I get to agree with my hardcore feminist sisters, but in the instance of marriage failing to be the silver bullet to ending poverty, I do. Marriage alone doesn’t end poverty: equality, education and opportunity do. There are many cultures in developing nations where marriage is a priority – the priority in some cases – and their poverty levels are far more abysmal than those of the United States’. If marriage alone could cure poverty, then all my sisters in the Serengeti would be flushed with wealth. After all, they marry them off young and circumcised, don’t they?
The best thing a woman can do for her family is to educate herself, travel, learn new languages and earn an independent income for herself. That is how we will reduce poverty in this nation and the world over. That is how we will build generational wealth…or self-sufficiency at the least.
The truth is we can do our best to manage poverty, but it will never truly be eliminated. Jesus said so Himself.
Mark 14:7 “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.”
Don’t believe the hype. Get married if you want to, but unless you’re marrying Ben Bernanke or Oprah, don’t assume for one moment that it’s going to zap all your money woes.