Family Formation and Poverty

A History of Academic Inquiry and Its Major Findings The dramatic connection between thriving, intact families being a woman’s and child’s strongest protection against poverty has been well-established for decades. Considering the significant detriment poverty brings to the lives of mothers and their children and all the other personal life issues it negatively affects—physical and emotional health, educational progress, safe and desirable living conditions, general hope for the future and the provision of basic resources for one’s self and children, etc.—it is essential that all who care for the social well-being and dignity of women and children understand the depth and breadth of the connection here. To that end, the following is a brief overview of the history and academic findings on the connection between marital stability and the elevation out of and protection from poverty. The contemporary story starts in 1965. The Moynihan Report This famous (or infamous) government report was effectively the first shot fired in the modern culture war over the family. In 1965, the Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Johnson Administration, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, warned that the gains anticipated by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 might not be fully realized if considerable attention was not paid to another great challenge in the black community: the crumbling of the black family. The “Moynihan Report,” as it came to be known, explained in great detail the nature of this problem, which Moynihan described as the Johnson Administration’s “case for national action.” On the first page of his report, Moynihan warned, The fundamental problem, in which this is most clearly the case, is that of family structure. The evidence—not final, but powerfully persuasive—is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. . . . So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itse
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