The Federal government’s programs for poor relief undermine the ability of the poorest people in society to get married and stay married.
Consider these facts:
- For women with a high-school degree and maybe some college, 58% percent of their firstborn children are born out of wedlock. These children end up having limited contact and relationships with their fathers.
- The percent having their first birth out of wedlock is 55% for white women, 69% for Hispanic women, and 87% for African American women. 
- Some of the most significant income support programs have significant marriage penalties for some people. People these situations are better off cohabiting, or not living together at all, rather than getting married. These programs include the Earned Income Tax, Child Tax Credits, Medicaid, SNAP, TANF and WIC. 
- Children living with cohabiting parents are more likely to experience the separation of their parents than children whose parents are married. This separation diminishes the chances of the children having continuous relationships with both their parents, especially their fathers.
Marriage benefits children. There is no longer any serious doubt about this. Why then, is our government creating incentives for parents to not marry? Poor children need their own parents and a stable family life every bit as much as children of the middle and upper classes.
My references below include people from across the political spectrum. In spite of this, nothing has been done to remove the marriage penalties from federal income support programs. My guess is that many of the “liberals” are fearful of marriage as something that could be oppressive to abused women. My further guess is that many of the “conservatives” are fearful of the increased taxpayer costs that removing the marriage penalties might create.
Social conservatives have the ear of the current Administration, more so than any time I can recall. I urge social conservatives inside the Trump administration to remove the marriage penalties from these programs. I suggest convening a commission of the authors listed in the notes below, along with Pat Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation, and Isabell Sawhill of the Brookings Institute.
Together, they could come up with something. We owe it to the least among us to stop undermining the formation and stability of their families.
1. “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America,” Kay Hymowitz, Jason Carroll, W. Bradford Wilcox, Kelleen Kay, 2013 by The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, and The Relate Institute. http://twentysomethingmarriage.org/the-great-crossover/ (Last accessed November 15, 2016.)
2. Elaine Maag and Gregory Acs, “The Financial Consequences of Marriage for Cohabiting Couples with Children,” (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute, September 2015.) http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/2000366-The-Financial-Consequences-of-Marriage-for-Cohabiting-Couples-with-Children%20.pdf
W. Bradford Wilcox, Joseph P. Price and Angela Rachidi, “Marriage, Penalized”: Does Social-Welfare Policy Affect Family Formation?” (Washington DC: American Enterprise Institute and Institute for Family Studies, 2016). https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/IFS-HomeEconReport-2016-Final-072616.pdf
Spencer Rand, “The Real Marriage Penalty: How Welfare Law Discourages Marriage Despite Public Policy Statements to the Contrary—and What can be done about it.” University of the District of Columbia Law Review, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2015, pp. 93-143. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2685206
Robert Rector, “How Welfare Undermines Marriage and What to Do About it,” (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2014). http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/11/how-welfare-undermines-marriage-and-what-to-do-about-it