- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Children of all races and ethnic groups who live in homes with married parents are less likely to live in poverty, new census data show.

More than 95 percent of white children who lived with married parents in April 2000 had incomes above the poverty line, said the new report, which is based on Census 2000 data.

Similarly, more than 80 percent of Hispanic children, 81 percent of American Indian children and 88 percent of black and Asian children escaped poverty if they lived with married parents.

The findings support the Bush administration’s plans to encourage both work and stable relationships, including marriage, in low-income communities.

Work is the federal government’s primary antipoverty program, “but there are good reasons to believe that marriage, in combination with a work strategy, will lift the most children out of poverty,” said Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That is because when a couple is married, he said, it is more likely that they — especially the husband — will become committed to bringing in a full-time, full-year income. In addition, “extended families are more likely to financially help someone who is married to their children than someone who’s not,” Mr. Horn said.

The 1996 welfare reform law expires March 31, and Rep. Wally Herger, California Republican, has introduced a bill to extend it through June 30.

Mr. Herger’s bill also immediately converts a $100 million welfare bonus program into a “healthy marriage” grant program for states to use to encourage marriage education, divorce reduction and relationship skills.

Vicky Lovell, an analyst at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, disagrees with such an approach.

“If we really care about reducing poverty, we should fund proven, effective measures … and fix problems with the existing safety net, rather than experiment with social engineering, trying to force people to marry,” she said.

The new census report shows that parents with less education are likely to live in poverty. Therefore, government can best invest in parents by connecting them to an education, followed by help with job training, child care and transportation, said Ms. Lovell. “Marriage should be a personal choice, not a federal antipoverty policy,” she added.

Other highlights of the report, “Children and the Households They Live In: 2000,” which provides details on 72.1 million children 17 and younger, include:

• Sixteen percent of children lived in poverty.

• Nearly 60 million children were biological children of the householder, while 3.3 million were stepchildren, 1.6 million were adopted and 4.4 million children lived with grandparents.

• Of the 5.7 percent of children living in unmarried-couple households, 415,970 children lived with same-sex partners and 3.6 million children lived with opposite-sex partners.

• Sixty-eight percent of children lived in married-couple homes, 20.9 percent lived in single-mother homes, 5.8 percent lived in single-father homes and 5.4 percent lived with relatives.

• About 61 percent of children were white, 17 percent Hispanic, 14.8 percent black, 3.4 percent Asian and 1.1 percent American Indian/Alaska Native.

• About 12.9 million children lived with a parent who is foreign-born and 2.1 million lived with a parent who is a recent immigrant.

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