Marriage Is an Important Tool in the Fight Against Poverty

By W. Bradford Wilcox

Marriage is no “panacea for poverty,” according to a Center for American Progress (CAP) report by Shawn Fremstad released last week. “Marriage Won’t Cure Poverty,” read the Atlantic headline for an article by Rebecca Rosen spotlighting the CAP report. And, a few years ago, a prominent study by three sociologists framed the question in a way that sounds familiar: “Is Marriage a Panacea?”

When progressive policy makers, journalists, and scholars pose the question like this, the answer is never in doubt: marriage is no poverty panacea. Well, yes, of course. Any serious consideration of poverty must acknowledge the roots of poverty are varied; hence, marriage cannot be the singular answer to poverty.

But just because putting a ring on it won’t cure poverty, that doesn’t mean the converse is true: namely, marriage plays no role in the fight against poverty. In truth, marriage is one important tool, among others — from high-quality education to wage subsidies for low-income jobs—in the fight against poverty. It’s this qualified contribution that marriage can make in the fight against poverty that is largely overlooked in the CAP report and Rosen’s article.

Among today’s families and children, three sets of findings illustrate the power of marriage in the fight against poverty.

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