Archive for Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unwed births leading cause of poverty, panel told

November 20, 2012


— Gov. Sam Brownback’s newly formed task force on child poverty was told Monday that the increase in “nonmarital births” was a leading cause of child poverty.

Ron Haskins, a senior fellow with The Brookings Institution, said that from a child’s perspective, “They need a mom, they need a dad, they need consistency … if that occurs it has major impacts on development.”

Haskins’ comments were made during the first meeting of the Governor’s Task Force on Reducing Childhood Poverty. Brownback appointed the group earlier this month.

In Kansas, 18.1 percent of children live in poverty, which represents a 53 percent increase from 1970. A family of four earning less than $23,050 is considered to be living under the poverty level.

Haskins said “Nonmarital births are really a major part of the problem of poverty in the United States.”

He said births to unmarried women nationwide have increased from around 30 percent in 1993 to 40 percent now. The poverty rate for children in female-headed households is 41 percent, while it is about 9 percent for married couples, he said.

“We are doing more of the thing that virtually guarantees poverty,” he said. “Unless we attack it, we are not going to get at the heart of the problem.”

He said if people will graduate from high school, work full time and wait until they are married to have children, they increase their chances dramatically of avoiding poverty. “Education, family composition and work are always going to be key,” he said.

“It is a very challenging issue,” said Kansas Department of Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, who is serving as co-chair of the task force.

Earlier, Page Walley, a director with Casey Family Programs, urged task force members to work on reducing the number of children removed from their parents and put in foster homes.

“Foster care was never intended to be a permanent solution,” he said.


Maddy Griffin 5 years, 2 months ago

Another attack on women.Blame it on the unmarried mom. Since there is no such thing as a deadbeat dad.Geez! If absentee fathers would just pay their support, it wouldn't have to be 41%.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

The article didn't attack the unmarried mom, it attacked unmarriedness. As in the choice of the two DNA donors to not marry is to the detriment of the DNA recipient.

deec 5 years, 2 months ago

The implication is that somehow a piece of paper confers greater income. It doesn't. Both parents contributing financially to the well-being of their offspring decreases child poverty. They don't have to be married to do so. Non-contributing parents, married or otherwise, increase poverty.

If this committee were actually interested in decreasing child poverty and not just denigrating women, their focus would be on ways to increase payment by non-contributing parents.

They would also be focusing on ways to both increase wages for all workers and ways to help women reach parity in wages. An increase in the minimum wage and increased subsidies for child care would help.

rachelind 5 years, 2 months ago

You're absolutely right. Let's take tax dollars away from desolate children and let them fend for themselves. If you have any moral conscience how can you actually believe that's the appropriate response to this issue? Just a guess, but you're probably religious and pro-abstinence, aren't you?

Centerville 5 years, 2 months ago

We've spent decades pretending that this isn't true - some of the typical 'la la la' obfuscations will no doubt show up in these comments. Please read the related article which includes 'out-of-wedlock birth, single-parent households' as poverty indicators. Because they are.

deec 5 years, 2 months ago

" Declining work rates, stagnant wages, the rise of female-headed families, inferior education, and the arrival of millions of immigrants with poor education and low skills are little engines pushing up the poverty rate. Conditions in the U.S. virtually ensure high poverty rates because the underlying factors that cause poverty have remained very strong."

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 2 months ago

Let's not confuse correlation with causation.

What Mr. Haskins points out is a correlation; that child poverty correlates with "unwed births". He is treating this correlation as cause-effect, which it is not necessarily.

There is a 100% correlation between childhood poverty and having very little money.

The increase in economic disparity in the country has led to an increase in poverty, and increase in "unwed births", and thus an increase in child poverty.

It's the economy, stupid.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

I generally agree.

But, why would an increase in economic disparity lead to more children born out of wedlock? If anything, you might expect people who have less money to have fewer children.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 2 months ago

I would say the lack of access to contraception, the demonization of Planned Parenthood and the "pro-life" anti-abortion (which are, in actuality, pro-birth because they don't give a s&^% about the kid once it's born) forces have something to do with this.

bevy 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't see where lack of access to birth control is such a big issue. (Perhaps it is in other areas of the country.) I have been poor - very poor - and I had no problem getting birth control at the county health department. For FREE. Planned parenthood is not the only game in town.

However, I also agree that greater enforcement of child support obligations is needed. Not to mention, at some point you have to stop paying people more welfare for having more kids. Or reward them for not having more kids. A system that pays a woman to have more children that she cannot afford to support is broken

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

It depends on where you live. In some regions, Planned Parenthood is the only game in town.

In Kansas, Planned Parenthood provides Title X family planning services to more than 8,000 Kansans at our Wichita and Hays health centers. Hays is the ONLY Title X provider in Ellis County. In the eight rural counties adjacent to Ellis, one offers limited family planning one day per month and four have no family planning services at all.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

You might expect that, but it turns out to be the opposite sometimes. Better educational attainment for women both lowers the birth rate and raises their income.

WilburM 5 years, 2 months ago

No question that single parents do offer "indicators" of poverty. But an indication is not a cause. The idea that more social engineering to produce increased rates of marriage is going to magically change things is highly doubtful. Moreover, American society is moving toward more single parents, across income levels. And one possible solution here -- gay marriage -- is clearly not on the table in KS. Rather, we cut access to health care and day care and reduce school funding (where single parents might get some relief).

If we could only go back to the glorious 1950s, when intact families led to wonderful lives.

storm 5 years, 2 months ago

He said births to unmarried women nationwide have increased from around 30 percent in 1993 to 40 percent now. Correction: unmarried couples - it takes two to procreate. Correct the language, then expectations for males will keeping a condom in their paying child support without government intrusion which I know of few parents that do this. gramaddy is spot on, and I will add absentee deadbeat moms.

pusscanthropus 5 years, 2 months ago

It's obvious these task force members have never actually worked with the at-risk youth who are contributing disproportionately to the next generation.

If they want to encourage marriage, then they'll have to legalize polygamy--particulary polygyny. In the past year, I have worked with several high school dropouts who have fathered children with multiple women. It is a status symbol "on the streets" to have multiple baby-mamas.

Wake up and face reality, Brownback! Go after the baby-daddies who think it's cool to impregnate as many women as possible. It might be difficult to do because, often times, their names never make it on the birth certificates.

somedude20 5 years, 2 months ago

Wow!!! Someone should do something to maybe educate or offer birth control devices to these people to help cut down on the unwed births. I mean, it is better to plan out parenthood rather than find out the, um, hard way, that when putting tab A into tab B, you get tab C(hild). Maybe Kansas can outlaw sex unless you are married.......

pusscanthropus 5 years, 2 months ago

Excuse me, Mr RC1977, but the highest birth rate is among drop outs, not those who took advantage of the public education system and earned a diploma. .

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

chuckle. Your posts are starting to remind me of the South Park Family Guy episode where the Manatees grab random idea balls that are roughly formed into a semi-coherent thought.

'Okay . . . we've got "poverty", "public education", "hard working taxpayers", "personal responsibility", "somebody else's fault", and of course the standard "liberalism" bonus ball. Let's see what we can come up with . . . . '

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 2 months ago

Watch for Sam to do away with marriage license fees and call it an "anti-poverty measure". :)

Katara 5 years, 2 months ago

I believe that was actually a suggestion when he rolled out his marriage initiatives.

tomatogrower 5 years, 2 months ago

The only reason single parent families are poorer, is because we have created an economic society which requires 2 incomes coming into the family, unless one of those incomes is huge. When I was a divorced single mom, I didn't get much child support, but there were good paying factory jobs, and I could make a decent living for my daughter and I. Of course, the highest I ever paid for child care was $30/week. I rented nice houses for at most $250. Actually, I saw the rents skyrocketing, and realized I wasn't going to be able to pay that for a nice house anymore, and bought a mobile home. The brand new car I bought, no radio or AC, only cost $4000. I was making $10/hour then. I know a lot of people who would love to be making $10/hour now, but they have to pay triple or more for basic living expenses. They are looking for the causes in all the wrong places.

verity 5 years, 2 months ago

"They are looking for the causes in all the wrong places."


tomatogrower 5 years, 2 months ago

Oh, and I wed the father of my daughter. He turned into a monster, who liked to slap me around, do drugs, sell drugs, sleep with other women. Would I choose poverty over living with the jerk? You betcha.

Companies used to trickle down their profits. Now they just give their executives obscene raises. Whether you want to believe it or not, there is no company without the workers.

dabbindan 5 years, 2 months ago

granted, statistically, married couples present a better future to their children. however, i'll bet there's an even better correlation with those who are mature responsible adults. you cannot force two idiots to marry and expect it to make all things better. most of the parties in these unwed procreative situations are not marriage material in the sense that conservatives are thinking. a large number of immature couples trying to live together may even create more social problems than we already have. unfortunately that the children are innocent victims of the irresponsible choice of the parents leave society on the hook for their care. public service campaigns like seat belt use, and the drunk driving issue have helped those issues. a massive and ongoing campaign to encourage starting a family when one is financially secure and emotionally ready would be a start. make it saturate the culture.

safe, effective, inexpensive and readily available contraception and another public service campaign to promote the heck out of it is ESSENTIAL.

and last, an economy that provides a living wage to the working middle class instead of the steady concentration of wealth in the hands of the wealthy would help out a lot as well.

brownback's tax plan that increased taxes on the working poor and reduced it on the well off (oh yeah, we'll just increase social services a notch to make up for it) is completely counter productive and flies in the face of often stated conservative principles: income makes you independent and social services make you dependent. what a cruel joke.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

The simple fact is that too many men and women are having children they are ill equipped to raise, financially and emotionally. Somewhere along the line, we've given up on the notion of telling them not to do that. Whether that's because it's morally wrong or it works to the detriment of the child or because others in society who will have to pick up the tab, both financially and emotionally. But we have lost the ability to tell them to stop. So they keep dumping the consequences of their actions on the very children they supposedly care for and/or they dump the consequences on the rest of society.

How people live their lives is generally none of my business. How you choose to raise your children is likewise generally none of my business. When you reach inside my wallet to support your choices, then you've invited me to give my opinion. So to those of you having children and not reaching in may wallet, I will keep my mouth shut. To those reaching into my wallet, I say stop, or I just might slap your hand as it reaches for my wallet.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

I love it.

Your approach is to tell people what to do, as if you're their parent, and slap their hands.

Sounds like it'll be very effective - sarcasm intended.

Do you ever have any ideas outside of your parental and punitive mindset?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

I thought there were some things that everyone could agree with. Things like people should only have as many children that they can support, financially and emotionally. Feel free to argue the other side of that argument.

The fact that people are behaving contrary to that statement, (your side of the argument), and we can indeed see the results (bad,), I'll stand by my arguments.

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

"Things like people should only have as many children that they can support, financially and emotionally. Feel free to argue the other side of that argument."

It's not particularly that there is disagreement with the principle, just the practicality. It's kind of like addressing national defense by "people in all nations should just learn to be nicer and more respectful to each other." Okay, great. But that doesn't seem to actually play out in life, much the same as your idea above. Perhaps That, not some need to be PC, is what drives the search for alternative answers.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree with the problem being one of practicability. That said, it's legitimate to have another side of the equation, such as the ability to simply say what you are doing is wrong. We've lost that in our overzealousness to honor people's rights and freedoms. But as the old saying goes, your right to throw a punch ends at the tip of my nose. Their rights and freedoms to live their lives as they see fit ends when they involve me.

Linda Endicott 5 years, 2 months ago

You really have the right now to say to someone that you think what they're doing is wrong...go ahead and try it...see if it changes anything...

Katara 5 years, 2 months ago


There seems to be an assumption on folks', such as jhawkinsf, parts that people are having kids that they cannot support financially or emotionally rather than something occurring after the kids are already here.

People lose jobs, get divorced, become disabled and die. All of these things can happen after the kids are here.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

All of those things are possible. But my post spoke directly to those who were having children that they were unable to provide for, emotionally and financially at the time they had those children.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Your post isn't responsive to my comment.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

Perhaps if you rephrase your comment.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Who has the right to tell others they can or can't have children, and based on what?

Do you really think that is the solution?

Why are you so focused on parental and punitive measures, and do you have other ways of thinking about issues like this?

You're not their parents, and I don't like the idea of a parental society, one which acts as if the government is a parent and citizens are children.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 2 months ago

I've always believed that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. They are like two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other.

I do not have the right to tell people who can and who cannot have children or under what conditions they have children. But if they do make that choice, in other words, if they exercise their right to have children, then the responsibility is theirs as well. It is their responsibility to provide food, clothing, shelter. It is their responsibility to raise their children in ways that they see fit. They can raise them to believe in a certain religion or no religion, as an example.

The question is this, though, if they abrogate their responsibility as parents and expect me to provide for their children what they themselves have a responsibility to provide, have they left door open for me to provide at least an opinion that I may then openly express. Or must I simply provide for their children and keep my mouth shut, never to express my feelings. If rights and responsibilities go hand in hand for them, don't they likewise go hand in hand for me. Having assumed certain responsibilities that rightly belong to them, do not I now have the right to express an opinion. If I'm picking up the tab for your already born child, cannot I at least say do not have more.

I am not proposing that they be forced into behaving in certain ways. However, I don't feel like forcing me into silence is correct either.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

You can say whatever you like.

It's just not any sort of solution, that's all.

voevoda 5 years, 2 months ago

Even when men and women were told not to conceive children out of wedlock, they still did, and at pretty high rates, too. Telling people to stop wasn't effective before and it isn't going to be effective now. Societies in the past had some alternative means of dealing with extra-marital births, but I don't think that they are better than what we do. Killing newborns. Abandoning them on the street. Housing them in orphanages. Selling them into slavery. Executing the women who gave birth out of wedlock. Confining them in convents. Expelling them and their baby into the wilderness. Torturing them until they name as the father a man wealthy enough to support the child. Forcing the parents to marry. I'd prefer to pay more in tax money to support poor children rather than live in a society that followed those alternatives.

notaubermime 5 years, 2 months ago

My question would be how many of these children born out of wedlock and into poverty were conceived that way as well? Of those, how many have a parent whom had ready access to affordable birth control? Of those, how many are born to parents who received sex education that went beyond abstinence only? Of those remaining, what can be done about it? Wagging one's finger at someone doesn't really help things.

There needs to be an understanding of how these situations develop and what can be done to avoid them (with the realization that some situations are simply unavoidable and tragic). Making others feel bad without giving them a path to change generally only makes things worse. I'm not saying that we shouldn't make people feel bad for burdening others with their poor choices, just that there needs to be a solution in place before we do so.

Briseis 5 years, 2 months ago

China knows where the child poverty problem lies. It is not the men. I hope and pray that to control poverty it does not come to China's choice to eliminate the true problem of child poverty.

Bob Reinsch 5 years, 2 months ago

I'd guess the real problem is penises. Young irresponsible men armed with a weapon of mass impregnation. Every penis in the state of Kansas ought to be registered and tagged. Someone coming in from out of state should get their penis registered with the state penile system. Then, and only then, can we move the economy forward. Ovaries don't cause unwanted pregnancy!

bevy 5 years, 2 months ago

LOL. Reminds me of an old joke. When you have a son, you only have to worry about one penis. When you have a daughter, you have to worry about ALL of them. (I have several daughters. I worry a lot. But my girls are educated and smart enough to protect themselves.)

labmonkey 5 years, 2 months ago

If you don't raise your kids well, you'll be attempting to raise your grandchildren.

Water 5 years, 2 months ago

All these comments and nobody has stated women want children?" Yep, it's a fact. Women want a child. They don't need a child, they want to get pregnant and give birth to their own child when the FEELING STRIKES THEM. This feeling even strikes 60 year old women who attempt to satisfy their want by nudging their daughter to have a child. Reasoning be damned.

verity 5 years, 2 months ago


A bit of a generalization there. I'm a 65-yr-old woman and I have never wanted a child, never wanted to get pregnant and certainly not to give birth.

However, you do bring up a point which probably was intended. Our culture too often looks at women who don't marry and reproduce as not being a whole woman. Having at one time been a social worker, I saw some young woman in poor circumstances wanting a baby because it was something that was theirs. Maybe if our society helped them to get out of these poor circumstances, it would cut down on "unwed births."

JackMcKee 5 years, 2 months ago

Watch The Dust Bowl and you'll start to understand why we get politcians like Kobach elected in Kansas.

verity 5 years, 2 months ago

Please explain the correlation. Not arguing with you, I just am not seeing it.

Ben Bahe 5 years, 2 months ago

Why have a baby in first place? It's no accident a child was concieved. Its all our fault.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 2 months ago

Having very little money correlates with childhood poverty with a RMSD of 1.0. A perfect correlation.

Now, as to why single motherhood also correlates with poverty is an interesting question.

Lack of education, and more importantly opportunity, are certainly factors. Lack of societal scorn (as jhawkinsf describes) is certainly another (the social stigma has been lessened).

I would argue that having a child is a way to feel good about oneself, to exert control over one's circumstances and to feel pride and accomplishment in the process. When confronted with no other opportunities for self esteem and accomplishment, having a baby makes one feel good and in control.

Also, a husband (likely also poor) would just be one more mouth to feed. It might be easier to raise the child yourself instead of hooking up with another poor person who might also be abusive.

After all, domestic abuse also correlates with poverty and lack of education and opportunity.

Food for thought.

cinnamontwist 5 years, 2 months ago

About the lack of availability of contraception, I'll say this. I recently saw where the idea has been presented to make prescription contraceptives available over-the-counter. For the most part, I'm all for this idea. But something tells me some would then be complaining because their health care insurance wouldn't pay for it and they'd have to come up with the money.

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