Will promoting marriage solve childhood poverty in Virginia?

In 2011, one in three Virginia children lived in economic insecurity–either in poverty or in near poverty–as defined by Virginia Poverty Measure (VPM) poverty thresholds.  This statistic, among others, is discussed in depth in the Cooper Center’s newest paper, New Insights on Childhood Poverty: A Deeper Look into the Results from the Virginia Poverty Measure.

Slightly more than 13 percent of Virginia kids lived in poverty, according to the VPM. Another 18.5 percent lived beyond poverty, but below 150% of the VPM poverty thresholds. To put this into perspective, a two-adult, two-child family in Virginia with annual resources between $29,000 and $43,000 lives in near-poverty, while the same family living with resource totals below $29,000 would be considered in poverty under the VPM.*

Given the attention that marriage often receives from both pundits and policymakers as a a strategy to address childhood poverty, the paper released today focuses on the marital status of parents, comparing poverty and near-poverty across three groups: married-parent families, cohabiting-parent families, and single-parent families.  Our findings reinforce some common understandings of childhood poverty while also illuminating some of its less-frequently-discussed realities.  Continue reading

Breadwinner Moms in Virginia: A closer look at single mothers

Asain Mother

Applying findings to Virginia from a Pew Social & Demographic Trends report, two previous blog posts examined breadwinner mothers in Virginia.  In the first post we found differences between married and unmarried breadwinner moms:

  • Households where the breadwinning mom was married had higher income levels
  • Married breadwinning moms had higher educational attainment
  • Even with the same educational attainment, married breadwinning moms earned more than unmarried moms (and worked more hours on average).

In the second post we examined differences between two groups of unmarried breadwinning moms – those who are single and those who are cohabiting with a partner.  We found that, between these two groups, a greater proportion of cohabiting moms and their children live in poverty, and that lower earnings among cohabiting moms are found even when we hold age and educational attainment constant.

In this post, we will wrap up by focusing on single mothers, the group that makes up the largest share (54%) of breadwinning mothers.[1] 

In light of stereotypes about single mothers represented in popular media, findings from the American Community Survey are particularly important to describing single motherhood in Virginia.

Single mothers in Virginia

The data about single mothers in Virginia points to an important finding: the lives of single mothers who have never been married is quite different from those who have been married before, even when holding constant age, educational attainment, or age of the children. For example, in Virginia, single mothers have median household incomes of about $28,000.  But when we examine marital history, we find some variation around that number. Continue reading

Analyzing “I Do”

Businessman Reading Newspaper Financial Page

How many of you have ever checked out Google’s Ngram Viewer?  Here’s a spin-off for any armchair demographers out there: a tool for analyzing The New York Times Weddings/Celebrations Section, WeddingCrunchers.com.  (The creators have a similar tool for rap lyrics, called Rap Stats.)

If you’ve never seen or heard of an n-gram before, it’s a name for a simple concept that packs a punch.  An n-gram of words is a sequence of text n words long.  Take the phrase, “Speak truth to power.” This 4 word statement has three 2-grams (Speak truth, truth to, to power) and two 3-grams (Speak truth to, truth to power).   You could have n-grams of letters, too, or other items of text.  The math attached to n-grams is really cool, drawing from combinatorics.

The tools highlighted above show the frequency of word n-grams—phrases that are one or several words long— by year in specific collections of text.  Google allows you to search for phrases from a wide variety of books since 1950, Rap Stats pulls its data from rap lyrics starting in the year 1990, and Wedding Crunchers analyzes the Weddings/Celebrations section beginning with the year 1981.  Since Weddings/Celebrations announcements are pretty formulaic, Rap Genius Engineering Team explains, Wedding Crunchers is able to make use of n-gram searches to reveal some trends about what couples care to share.  The website allows you to search all Weddings/Celebrations announcements since 1981 for phrases you’re curious about—like words showing age, degrees, or hometown.  You can search for several different phrases at once, and see how they have been used over time.

Want to know how often your alma mater is mentioned compared to some rivals?   Try entering college names, separated by commas, into the search box to see the trends:

Continue reading