DUBUQUE — Spoiler Alert: I’m about to divulge a few anecdotal pieces of my life in prepping you for this week’s column.
Let me start out by sharing that I was raised by a single mother all of my life and that my family (of three) was very poor for as long as I can remember.
Now, you can imagine the desire I had to respond as I read last week’s article that was published on page 5 of the Opinion section about marriage, poverty and responsibility of parents in marriages.
Though I commend the author for an attempt to hold up something that is not innately bad, marriage, and to do so using some statistics, I challenge the author to be a bit more critical in his thinking and go beyond surface-level thought.
I did note that the author was probably trying to promote the idea of families staying together, as that often is a good thing. But, I had a bit of a bone to pick with the section that read:
“The issue is that many single parents did not regard the importance of healthy marriages before having a child.”
That may be true sometimes, but I don’t think it’s true always, or even most of the time. Raise your mental hand if you have heard of anyone who started a relationship, fell in love, got married and had kids, but was pretty indifferent about whether or not it worked out? Nobody? Bueller?
In my mother’s case, she made a really hard choice to do what was best for her kids. My mother said to me that “staying together (with my father, considering his behavior at one time, which had changed drastically from the beginning of their relationship) would have been the antithesis of family. That’s not what a family is, what we have now is a family.”
I never quite understood that until recently. And, though we made financial sacrifices, I respect my mother a great deal for making tough decisions for me.
So, there is a point to be made on marriage and poverty; however, I don’t think our author looked at the bigger picture.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and several studies cited on their website and beyond, poverty rates are higher among divorcees. But, that has more to do with race, gender and initial socio-economic class than it does divorce rates.
Of course, it is true that two-parent families boast a synergetic 55 percent income increase than single parent families, that’s just simple math: two incomes are greater than one.
But, it is essential to note that over 70 percent of divorces are caused by financial problems in the first place. And, minorities are the most impoverished group of people in the country. This, perhaps, explains why the divorce rates between black couples is 70 percent! The “Livin’ on Love” portrait painted by George Straight’s hit is, maybe, not so accurate for black Americans.
Lastly, there is a section in the article that says that welfare programs should be changed to encourage marriages. That is a great idea in theory, but when put in practice makes no sense. First, those who aren’t sick (poor), don’t need medicine (help). Second, people will stay in abusive or unhealthy relationships for money’s sake. That’s economic blackmail.
So, while I do appreciate the attempt to hold up positive solutions, I think our author missed the boat in terms of finding a real solution. If we empower people, reduce poverty, address racist economic policies, and increase mental health treatments and affordable health care (medical bills make up over 90 percent of debt in America), then we can see real solutions come to be. The childhood psychological repercussions of encouraging unhealthy relationships, and sometimes dangerous ones, are much worse than those that come about because of poverty.