Family Breakdown adds to “Debt-Clock”

Family Breakdown adds to “Debt-Clock”

Be prepared to be shocked and disturbed when you visit U.S. Debt Clock. org This “debt-clock” shows the rate at which the U.S. and various countries of the world are spiraling out of control.  You’ll see everything from social security and medicare debt to mortgage debt and defense spending.  You’ll also see how much every family and individual in America will have to come up with to pay the debt off.


Below are just a few of the literally hundreds of studies regarding divorce, single-motherhood, and other types of family breakdown and their contribution to this out-of-control debt situation.  There are countless social programs and millions of tax payer dollars being spent to try to fill the void when families breakup or never form.

Examples of Research

Changes in family structure have caused a great deal, perhaps all, of the increases in child poverty between the early 1970s and the 1990s. Robert I. Lerman, “The Impact of Changing U.S. Family Structure on Child Poverty and Income Inequality,” Economica 63, 250 S (1996): S119-39.   Isabel Sawhill, “ Families at Risk,” Setting national priorities: The 2000 election and beyond, edited by H. Aaron and R.D. Reischauer, ( Washington, D.C.:  Brookings Institution Press 1999):  97-136.

The current high divorce rates could lead to “serious implications for aging individuals, their families, and public policies for retirement saving incentives and income maintenance programs.” Janet Wilmoth and Gregor Koso, “Does Marital History Matter?  Marital Status and Wealth Outcomes Among Preretirement Adults,” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (2002):  254-268.

In the year 2000, two in five children in families headed by single women (39.7 percent) were poor, compared to only 8.1 percent of children in married families. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Poverty Tables, Washington D.C. (2002).

Eight-one percent of children living in non-married households will experience poverty during the course of their childhood, but only 22 percent of children living with married parents will experience poverty; 52 percent of children in non-married households will experience dire poverty (income 50 percent or less of the official poverty threshold), but only 10 percent of children in married households will experience dire poverty. Mark R. Rank and Thomas A. Hirschi, “The Economic Risk of Childhood in America:  Estimating the Probability of Poverty Across the Formative Years,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61, 4 (1999):  1058ff.

If family structure had remained consistent between 1960 and 1998, the black child poverty rate in 1998 would have been 28.4 percent rather than 45.6 percent and the white child poverty rate would have been 11.4 percent rather than 15.4 percent. Adam Thomas and Isabel Sawhill, “For Richer or For Poorer: Marriage as an Antipoverty Strategy,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 21 (2002):  4.

“One of every three divorces in the U.S. resulting in the physical separation of a father from his children plunges the mother and children into poverty.  Father absence due to marital failure is a primary cause of poverty in the U.S.” David Blankenhorn, “The Marriage Problem,” American Experiment Quarterly, Spring 2003, citing Suzanne M. Birch, Lekha Subaiya, and Joan R. Kahn, “The Gender Gap in the Economic Well-Being of Nonresident Fathers and Custodial Mothers,” Demography 35, 2 (May 1999):195-203.

Almost 75 percent of American children living in single-parent families will experience poverty before they reach age 11. Only 20 percent of children in two-parent families will do the same. Just the Facts: A Summary of Recent information on America’s Children and their Families, National Commission on Children, Washington, D.C., 1993.

One in five children in the United States today is born into poverty.  About 40 percent of all poor Americans are children.  Much of this problem is the result of teen pregnancy, single-parent homes, and family breakdown. Steven Bayme, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and David Blankenhorn, eds., Rebuilding the Nest:  A New Commitment to the American Family. Family Service America, Milwaukee, WI. (1990):  vi.

Men from divorced-family backgrounds are more likely to have a lower occupational standing than their fathers, even after income effects are taken into account.   “The experience of family disruption during childhood substantially increases men’s odds of ending up in the lowest occupational stratum as opposed to the highest.” Timothy J. Biblarz and Adrian E. Raftery, “The Effects of Family Disruption on Social Mobility,” American Sociological Review 58 (February 1993):  97.  Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, “The Divorce Culture,” Vintage Books ( New York:  Random House 1996).

Married people see an increase in wealth that is more than just adding the assets of two single people.  Individuals who are married accumulated a net worth that is 93 percent  higher than single or divorced individuals.  Divorce reduces a person’s wealth by 77 percent. (9,055 people, National Longitudinal Survey of Youth) Jay Zagorsky, “Marriage and Divorce’s Impact on Wealth,” Journal of Sociology 41, 4 (2005):  406-424.

Figures from 1993 indicate that the poverty rate for children living with divorced mothers was 39 percent, compared with 11 percent for children in two-parent families. Nicholas Zill and Christine Winquist Nord, Running in Place:  How American Families Are Faring in a Changing Economy and an Individualistic Society (Washington D.C.:  Child Trends, 1994):  15-17.

During years that children lived with two parents their family incomes averaged $43,600, and when the same children lived with one parent their family incomes averaged $25,300.  In other words, the household income of a child’s family dropped on an average of 42 percent following a divorce. Mary E. Corcoran and Ajay Chaudry, “The Dynamics of Childhood Poverty,” Future of Children 7, 2 (1997):  40-54.  Patrick F. Fagan and Robert Rector, The Effects of Divorce on America, The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1373 (June 5, 2000): 11.

Compared with children living in families above the poverty line, children living below the poverty line are more likely to have difficulty in school, to become teen parents, and, as adults, to earn less and be unemployed more frequently. G. Duncan and J. Brooks-Gunn, Consequences of Growing Up Poor (New York, NY: Russell Sage Press 1997):.  C. An,  R. Haveman, and B. Wolfe, “Teen Out-of-Wedlock Births and Welfare Receipt: The Role of Childhood Events and Economic Circumstances,” Review of Economics and Statistics, 75 , 2 (1993):  195-208.

A daughter living in a single-parent household at any time during adolescence is far more likely (127 percent more likely among whites, 164 percent among blacks) to receive welfare benefits as an adult, compared to daughters from an intact two-parent households. Sara S. McLanahan, “Family Structure and Dependency: Reality Transitions to Female Household Head ship,” Demography 25 (February 1988):  1-16.

Adult children of divorce are less likely to help their aging fathers than adults who grew up in intact families. Teresa M. Cooney and Peter Uhlenberg, “The Role of Divorce in Men’s Relations with Their Adult Children After Mid-Life,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 52 (August 1990):  685-86.

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