Children living with married parents can be poor, too

Drawing on our recent report, New Insights on Childhood Poverty, Annie and I published an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch over the weekend. In it we discussed the consequences of limiting the conversation about childhood poverty to children with single parents:

…focusing the conversation about childhood poverty exclusively on children of single parents renders invisible the largest group of children in economic insecurity: those whose parents have already taken a trip down the aisle. It turns out that the face of economic insecurity may, in contrast to the broader narrative, be a child supported by married parents.

As detailed in our report, one in three Virginia children live in economic insecurity. Almost half, the largest group, live with married parents.

Read the full op-ed here.

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 unmarried mothers

Cohabiting Young White Couple

As mentioned in a previous post, much of the research and conversation about “breadwinning” mothers simplistically distinguishes between only two groups: married and unmarried mothers.  But there is a third group that is often not considered—women who are unmarried, but living with a partner.

Non-marital cohabitation is on the rise in the United States:  In 2009, the number of 30-44 year olds living in an unmarried (heterosexual) partnership was almost double what it was in the mid-1990s.  To more fully understand the economic status of Virginia’s mothers—to make the “breadwinning moms” story more precise—it is important to take a look at this third group.

In this post, “cohabiting mother” means any unmarried woman living with at least one of her minor children as well as a partner of either sex, while the term “solo” mother indicates unmarried mothers living without a partner.  I was able to identify this population of cohabiting Virginia mothers using data from the 2011 American Community Survey.*
 

Cohabiting mothers in Virginia

Cohabiting mothers represent about 4 percent of all Virginia mothers, and about 16 percent of unmarried mothers.   While this population is relatively small, it is worthy of notice for several reasons. Continue reading