The scociological evidence is now in: Married people as a group are better off financially and emotionally than their single counterparts, especially if they’re raising children. Such carefully researched studies as The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, by Judith Wallerstein, The Divorce Culture: Rethinking Our Commitments to Marriage and Family, by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, and The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, by Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite, have made it clear that single parenthood isn’t best for either children or their mothers. A man and woman committed for life to each other and to their offspring both financially and emotionally make the most stable environment for raising children successfully.

So, shouldn’t we be strongly encouraging young women to find and hold onto husbands before embarking on child-rearing? Nope, not if President Bush happens to promoting an initiative that would do just that. Bush wants the government to provide more than $1.5 billion in training to help couples develop the interpersonal skills necessary for a healthy marriage. In a recent column for the WaPo, Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor, mocks the marriage-promotion initiative as a waste of money that ought to be spent on one of Reich’s favorite federal bromides, job-training. “The best way to stabilize the American family and improve the odds that children won’t be impoverished is to help women–and men–get better-paying jobs,” Reich writes.

I myself, like Reich, am skeptical whether Washington would be the most effective promoter of a cultural change that more properly lies in the domain of families, churches, schools, and other non-governmental institutions. I’m also highly dubious about trying to train people to have interpersonal skills; that spells boondoggle to me. But what’s irritating about Reich’s column is his argument–by now thoroughly contradicted by the available evidence–that marriage doesn’t make people better off economically. Reich writes:

“The reason [single] mothers are poor has to do with their lack of education and the lousy jobs they have to settle for. Jobs at the bottom of the income ladder don’t pay enough to support a working woman and her children. They don’t pay enough to support a working man and his family either. So even if the mother is living and sharing expenses with a working man who’s also at the bottom of the income ladder, they’re still likely to be poor. If she’s married to him and he doesn’t have a job, they’re often worse off financially than if the mother is living alone.”

Except for Reich’s assertion that you can’t support a family on the minimum wage (it’s not designed for that), none of this is true. A working married couple can at least split housing expenses (as well as qualify for tax breaks), and even an out-of-work father can help his working wife financially by providing free day care for the kids. If poverty per se is supposed to discourage marriage, why were both the marriage rate and the legitimate-birthrate so high during the Great Depression, when one-third of men were out of work?

No, Robert, poverty doesn’t cause people not to marry. Failure to marry causes poverty. Read your Judith Wallerstein. Read your Maggie Gallagher. Not everything that G.W. Bush stands for is bad.