Surprise, surprise: study finds that marriage and workfare don't actually help poor people
From this morning's New York Times:
Many programs intended to lift people out of poverty by promoting marriage and mandating work do not address the realities of poor immigrants, a study released today has found.
The report, by the Urban Institute, a public policy research group in Washington, was based on a national survey of more than 42,000 households. The study showed that low-income immigrant families were more likely than their native counterparts to have two parents in the household and that poverty often persisted in these families despite the fact that both parents worked.
The study found, for example, that children of two-parent immigrant families were twice as likely to live in low-income households as children of two-parent native families. Low income is defined as less than twice the federal poverty line, which was $16,700 for a family of four in 1999.
"It shows that policies that assume low incomes are a result of not engaging in the work force, or not having stable families, are wide of the mark," said Michael Fix, director of immigration studies at the Urban Institute and an author of the study. "Since it is wages, not lack of employment or work ethic, that is at issue, what these families seem to need are work supports to enable them to boost their wages."
Of course, you won't convince the White House that spending millions on "marriage promotion" isn't a cure-all. Do these politicians seriously believe that the reason some poor people are unmarried is because they just haven't seen a billboard or TV ad that tells them marriage is a good thing? Apparently:
Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the study focused on the wrong data: "The comparison should not be between married immigrants and nonimmigrants, but between married immigrants and nonmarried immigrants," Dr. Horn, a strong supporter of marriage promotion as part of welfare programs, said.
"If the comparison were fair," he said, "I'm certain it would indicate that nonmarried immigrant households are, in fact, poorer than married immigrant families."
Which is entirely beside the point. Just because nonmarried households might have a tendency to be poorer, that doesn't mean that marriage will magically solve all their problems (see old cartoon of mine, and note that the amount given to marriage advertising and other such moronic schemes was actually even larger). Especially if the reason a single mother isn't married has to do with, say, domestic violence... It's a false causality, like saying that because studies show women who have Botox injections have more money than women who can still make facial expressions, getting Botox injections will magically propel poor women into prosperity (when in reality, it's more likely to leave them much poorer than before).