NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Reflections during Black History Month: Welfare Policy and Marriage

February 17, 2015

February is Black History Month, so the NCPA has compiled a new report detailing the many government policies that are actually hurting black Americans. For example, marriage and stable families are key to keeping people out of poverty, yet government welfare policies lack incentives to encourage two-parent families. Consider: 

  • Out-of-wedlock births are the second key cause of poverty (next to lack of employment), but the structure of welfare benefits encourages single parenthood and family breakups.
  • The poverty rate for female-headed households with children is 44.5 percent, compared to 7.8 percent for married couples with children.
  • The poverty rate for married black Americans is only 11.4 percent, while the rate for black female-headed households is 53.9 percent.
  • African-American children comprise about 25 percent of children who end up in foster care.

As the report notes, most welfare benefits are restricted to families with children -- thus, having a baby offers a gateway to a generous package of government benefits. On the other hand, if that mother marries a man who earns a significant income, those benefits are lost. Indeed, if the mother marries a man who is not working, but the government requires him to take available work before benefits are paid, then the benefits will be lost in any event, whether he refuses to work, or if he works and earns an income that eliminates them. In short, government is effectively paying women to have children out of wedlock.

NCPA Senior Fellow Devon Herrick recently published a report on the many negative impacts of the "War on Poverty" which, Herrick explains, has actually been a war on marriage due to federal policies that penalize marriage and encourage cohabitation.

For more on well-intentioned but destructive government policies, see the new NCPA report, "Reflections During Black History Month: What Public Policies Are Hurting African-Americans?"

Source: NCPA Staff, "Reflections During Black History Month: What Public Policies Are Hurting African-Americans?" National Center for Policy Analysis, February 2015. 


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