Unmarried and Low Income becoming far too common!

Two remarkable statistics reported in the past two days by the U.S. Census Bureau caught my attention. Today it was reported that 48% of Americans are now in poverty or are qualified as low-income. Yesterday the same Commerce Department bureau reported that the percentage of married adult Americans has fallen to a record low of only 51%. If you turn the number around that means 49% remain unmarried. Then it struck me how close the two numbers were. 49% unmarried…48% low income or poor. Is there a relationship?

Marriage DayAs you digest these numbers remember the old saying about examining percentages too closely, “Beat a statistic to death and it will tell you anything”. But having offered that disclaimer we have to acknowledge that these two startling statistics are connected.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines an income of $45k a year as low-income for a family of four. Since the average American individual income is only $40,584, in my state of Washington it’s $43,564, the average American needs two incomes to avoid being low-income. The average household income in 2010 in the U.S. was $63k. It’s certainly lower in 2011.

What the two reports also include are the fact that minorities make up more of the poor and more of the unmarried. Only 31% of African-American adults are married, Hispanics were just above 50% and whites were around 70%.  Not surprisingly the poverty rates for each ethnic group roughly correspond. The 2010 Census says the percentage of white kids under 18 in poverty at 12%; for Hispanics its 35%, for blacks it’s nearly 39%.

This is not intended to be a lamentation of the decline of American values, but merely an examination of what may be smart to do, and what may be detrimental. It seems finding a partner and making a commitment to them and them to you to help you through the tough times and help you better enjoy the good times is not only a reflection of good moral values as some would say, but also good financial judgement.

As one who has been married for 25 years I can tell you honestly that it’s not easy. I can tell you staying together this long and helping each other makes things better. At various times in the previous 25 years I’ve been unemployed or without significant income a couple of times. My wife has been in the same position too on a couple of occasions. There is no doubt without the other’s income to lean on each of us would have been in a much worse position then and now.

The Washington Post reports that the marriage patterns are a striking departure from the middle of the 20th century, when the percentage of adults who never wed was in the low single digits. In 1960, for example, when most baby boomers were children, 72 percent of all adults were married. The median age for brides was barely 20, and the grooms were just a couple of years older.

“In the 1950s, if you weren’t married, people thought you were mentally ill,” said Andrew J. Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist who studies families. “Marriage was mandatory. Now it’s culturally optional.” One has to wonder, why? Why has it become culturally optional, especially when this evidence and other factors show how marriage is a net-plus for society?

Now in the area of poverty there are certainly other factors to consider, education for one. During this extended recession while unemployment has remained above 9% for nearly the entire Obama Administration; unemployment for those with at least a College Bachelors Degree has consistently remained well below 5% (otherwise known as full employment). But here again there is a tie-in. More than 70% of those with a college education are married. It’s WELL below 50% for those with only High School or less.

I favor a change in attitude about marriage. Let our kids know that living with a partner outside of marriage is not only contrary to our values, our religion (if applicable), but also to their self-interest. It should be OK NOT to be married. But it should be recognized that we all benefit from the values too many have derisively called “old-fashioned” for far too many years.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

Poor People Shouldn’t be so Comfortable.

English: Poverty Rates by Age: 1959 to 2008. U...

Here I go again. Where is my compassion? This is what my Democratic friends and non-friends will say.

But as I wrote in an earlier blog called “Get Mad! Defend yourself. Conservative Values are Worth Defending”  I won’t take it. When I say “those in poverty in the U.S. live too comfortably and need to find it a little bit more challenging”; I’m the one with compassion. I’m the one who cares for their well-being. Democrats who want to keep them down by giving them JUST enough to continue their meek existence are the inhumane, the uncaring. Believe it. They’ve been dominating the poor in this country for far too long by keeping them fat and happy…and poor.

A recent study reported by The Heritage Foundation demonstrates dramatically that being poor in the United States doesn’t leave you much worse off than the average American. “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?” by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield points out that 97.7% of poor households have televisions. That compares to 98.7% of average Americans.

Additionally the study finds:

  • Over 78% of poor have air conditioning; compared to just 36% of all Americans in 1970.
  • 63.7% have cable TV
  • 65.1% have more than 1 TV
  • 38.2% have a personal computer; compared to 68% of the general populace.
  • 29.3% of poor families have a video game system, compared to 31.3% of average American households.
English: Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1...

The list is extensive and alarming. As the article points out the overwhelming majority of the 50-million who are classified as “in poverty” live relatively well with all kinds of modern amenities. The majority of them have air-conditioning, tv’s, cars, microwaves, adequate housing and ample access to food. The home of the average poor family was NOT over crowded and was in good repair. The average American poor family had more living space in their home than the average (overall average, not just poor) European.

There is no doubt that the poor in our country are struggling; but when they are struggling to pay for cable tv, the latest video game, and the comfort of air conditioning we have to ask why tax payer funds should go toward helping that struggle. The overwhelming budget deficits run by the current administration make it an even more important question.

MORE IMPORTANTLY there are people without adequate shelter or food who are hurt by the exaggerated deprivation of those classified as “in poverty”. But according to the study those who are homeless and at times without adequate food only represent 0.5% of the population; not 15-16% as Census reports in September 2011 indicated.

Of course its in the interest of certain demographic groups and organizations to exaggerate the numbers on poverty. In doing so more government money can flow to your demographic group through Federal programs designed to ease your burden and/or deprivation. But when a poor family’s amenities are nearly equal to the average household where is the deprivation. The study asked survey respondents if their home included a list of 30 household items they would have classified as amenities. The median average American household had 19 of these 30 items. The median poor household had 14.

Its worth noting that the average poor person does not represent all poor people. Like everything in life there is a range. But in order to come up with effective and efficient public policy to help care for those who are truly in-need we should be able to have a clearer definition of who is in need. And those who receive public assistance shouldn’t be so comfortable, and if they are, they shouldn’t receive public assistance.

The good news from this seemingly harsh stance is that those who live comfortably with lots of household amenities will be forced to make wiser choices for how they spend and save their money. They’ll certainly have greater motivation to work harder and smarter for the amenities they covet. And our nation’s deteriorating work ethic will get a necessary kick in the butt. And could it be that we all, even the poor, will learn to be more grateful for the things we have and the great nation in which we live.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

( Here is the link to the article in which the majority of this blog is based:  http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2011/07/What-is-Poverty )