Acton Institute Powerblog

Is Income Inequality Really About Marriage?

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President Obama has called income inequality the “defining challenge of our time,” but is it strictly about paychecks? Ari Fleischer thinks there is definitely more to it; he believes it’s about the breakdown of the family and American rejection of marriage.

“Marriage inequality” should be at the center of any discussion of why some Americans prosper and others don’t. According to Census Bureau information analyzed by the Beverly LaHaye Institute, among families headed by two married parents in 2012, just 7.5% lived in poverty. By contrast, when families are headed by a single mother the poverty level jumps to 33.9%.

And the number of children raised in female-headed families is growing throughout America. A 2012 study by the Heritage Foundation found that 28.6% of children born to a white mother were out of wedlock. For Hispanics, the figure was 52.5% and for African-Americans 72.3%. In 1964, when the war on poverty began, almost everyone was born in a family with two married parents: only 7% were not.

Fleischer proclaims that the government can’t move enough money around fast enough to enough people to fix the kind of poverty created by single-mother-absent-father families. The War on Poverty de-valued marriage and men’s contribution to the family (and that contribution is not simply financial.)

Given how deep the problem of poverty is, taking even more money from one citizen and handing it to another will only diminish one while doing very little to help the other. A better and more compassionate policy to fight income inequality would be helping the poor realize that the most important decision they can make is to stay in school, get married and have children—in that order.

Read “How to Fight Income Inequality: Get Married” at The Wall Street Journal.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.


  • Ari Fleischer is on to something critically important when he says “it’s about the breakdown of the family and American rejection of marriage.”

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  • Roger McKinney

    That is one of the problems that increases inequality at the lower end. Another is immigration from poor countries. But we have to acknowledge that incomes for the top 1% increased dramatically and most of that went to people in financial services. Coincidence? No. Fed inflationary policies benefit those in the industries that get the new money first and punishes those who get it last, the working poor.

  • Daniela Carrigo

    a simple answer would be to tax child support, then the income transfers streaming from payers (mostly fathers) to receivers (mostly mothers) could be captured. Also, award custody based on two primary factors—which parent has more education and which parent earns more. If there is a discrepancy, go with joint custody and no child support. The gains are all for children–a more highly educated parent means a more highly educated child, same is true for a parent who earns more (greater stability, greater work ethic as a role model)–imagine a family court structure that valued what is best for the child, AND, it would reduce child poverty. Problem, all politicians are afraid of women voters. well, wake up, plenty of women are mothers, sisters, and wives of men forced to pay child support to lazy, uneducated women who do nothing, earn nothing and do not deserve to keep children as a means to an easy paycheck.