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Moreover, marriage can help children only if the marriage is a healthy one.
If single parenthood is a problem, that problem cuts across race and ethnicity. Yes, growing up with two parents is better for children, but only when both mother and father are the biological or “intact” (as opposed to remarried) parents.
In fact, there is some evidence that second marriages can actually be harmful to adolescents.
The focus on marriage was met with skepticism by others.
Critics argued that marriage was not an appropriate province for government intervention and that income and opportunity structures were much more important factors than family structure.
While our collective hand-wringing about the number of American births that occur out-of-wedlock is justified, what is often missed is that the birthrate among unmarried women accounts for only part of the story.
In fact, birthrates among unmarried teens and African-Americans have been falling — by a fourth among unmarried African-American women since 1960, for example (Offner, 2001).I am honored to be invited to address your committee about what we know and do not know about the effects of marriage and divorce on families and children and about what policies and programs might work to promote and strengthen healthy marriages, especially among the poor.My goal is to briefly summarize the evidence in three areas: (1) what we know about the effects of marriage, divorce, and single parenthood on children; (2) what we know about the effectiveness of policies and programs that seek to stem persistently high rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing; and (3) what we know about the likely effects of these policies on low-income families and children., a unique nonpartisan social policy research and demonstration organization dedicated to learning what works to improve the well-being of disadvantaged families.We strive to achieve this mission by conducting real world field tests of new policy and program ideas using the most rigorous methods possible to assess their effectiveness.For example, less than 10 percent of married couples with children are poor as compared with about 35 to 40 percent of single-mother families.The combination of an alarmingly high proportion of all new births occurring out of wedlock and discouragingly high divorce rates among families with children ensures that the majority of America's children will spend a significant amount of their childhood in single-parent households.Moreover, research shows that even after one controls for a range of family background differences, children who grow up living in an intact household with both biological parents present seem to do better, on average, on a wide range of social indicators than do children who grow up in a single-parent household (Mc Lanahan and Sandefur, 1994).For example, they are less likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent, be arrested, and be unemployed.Renewed interest among sociologists and demographers (Furstenberg and Cherlin, 1994) in the link between poverty and single parenthood soon emerged, and as noted above, that work increasingly began building toward the conclusion that family structure did matter (Mc Lanahan and Sandefur, 1994).Of course, the debate was not just about family structure and income differences; it was also about race and gender.