Home / Blog / Article




September 8 2015

Good News: Experts Are Beginning to Recognize Relationship of Unwed Births and Poverty

Charlotte Hays

The Manhattan Institute's Kay Hymowitz--who made such a compelling presentation at IWF's May event on the future of the family--has an excellent piece on the relationship between poverty and unwed births in The Daily Signal.

The article was adapted from a piece by Hymowitz in the Heritage Foundation's "2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity," which came out in July.

While the rate of unwed birth remains at forty percent, Hymowitz reports the good news that experts are finally recognizing that poverty and unwed births are connected. Kids who grow up in single-family households are likely to be poor as children and not to break out poverty as adults.

The bad news is that the academic and policy communities still propose counterproductive ways of dealing with the problem of family breakdown. As Hymowitz reports, many see more government infrastructure devoted to helping the single-mother as the solution.

This creates problems for conservatives, who are skeptical about such solutions:

As a political matter, this means labeling those who warn about unintended consequences of this approach as greedy and lacking in compassion. The pressure to accept and adapt to widespread single motherhood by increasing the size and cost of government is bound to grow.

Those committed to the two-parent family as a vital individual and social good must come up with alternative approaches for its support. One component of the problem is the welfare state. The federal government operates dozens of means-tested aid programs for poor and low-income individuals; nearly all of these programs impose financial penalties on lower-income parents who choose to marry. Alleviating these welfare marriage penalties may, over time, give many more children the benefit of stable married parents.

Conservatives point to destructive cultural norms as the reason four in 10 children are now born to single mothers. They are right to do so. The question is whether they can help breathe life into a weakened civil society that must help revive the battered institution of marriage.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
Follow us