03 April 2009

How Much Would Marriage Improve the Financial Well-being of Young Children in Shelby County?

Dear Friends,

For many years, social scientists have examined the benefits of marriage for young children and families. The principal finding of that research is clear: strong and secure marriages bring real advantages to young children and families, certainly including higher incomes and greater family stability. The research also indicates that among single-parented families, first-time, unmarried parents have the best capacity to form stable marriages that provide both financial and emotional security to their children. To what extent would marriage improve the financial well-being of families in Shelby County, where the majority of children are born to unmarried parents?

Our most recent policy brief addresses this question by examining the cohort of unmarried mothers in Shelby County who gave birth for the first time in 2006. You can access the brief at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/PublicPolicy .

Some highlights of the brief:

In 2006, the largest cohort of newborns were born to single-mothers with older children at home. More than half of these families lived in poverty.

The second largest cohort of newborns were born to first-time single-mothers.

If we combine the incomes of first-time single-mothers and their partners it is possible to estimate the number of families that would be lifted out of poverty by marriage.

Sixty percent of first-time single-mothers and their children would be lifted out of poverty through marriage to their child's father. At the same time, most of these same families would remain financially vulnerable, with a median annual income of $27,040 (163% of the federal poverty line).

We welcome your suggestions, comments and questions.


Doug Imig, Ph.D.
Frances Breland, M.A.
Katie Devlin, M.S.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org; and The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County, available at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/DatabookProcessor.php.

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