Marriage Key For Reducing Child Poverty, Massachusetts Family Institute Report Finds

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Households where a married father is present are far wealthier than households where no father is present, a report from the Massachusetts Family Institute finds.

The median annual income of a married couple household in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was $157,418 as of 2021, according to the report. That was more than four times greater than the median income of fatherless households:  $37,974.

As a result, children who live with married couples are far less likely to live in poverty than those who do not, the report says. The poverty rate in Massachusetts for family households where two parents are married and live together is 4.2 percent; conversely, 34.8 percent of Massachusetts children living without a father live in poverty.

One reason for that, the report says, is that children with married parents have more income sources supporting them. Both parents work in nearly 70 percent of those households. Conversely, almost 30 percent of the children of unmarried mothers have no parents working to support them, meaning neither their mother nor their father works, the report says.

The Massachusetts Family Institute cites several reasons why single-parent families are poorer than married two-parent families, including:


  • It is inherently more costly for two parents to live apart and maintain separate housing, separate appliances, separate transportation
  • In Massachusetts, more fatherless families than married-couple families have no one in the household in the labor force. In 2021, 18.5 percent of fatherless households did not report any employment. By contrast, only 1.2 percent of children with married parents did not have at least one parent employed.
  • For 40.6 percent of Massachusetts children living with a single parent, that parent had achieved only a high school education or less. This limited the earning potential of the household.


While the report credits single mothers for their sacrifices to raise a family, calling them “heroic,” it says bringing up children within the context of married parents is a much better situation.

“In America, one of the principal causes of income inequality is the structure and health of the family,” the report states. “Young people who grow up in fatherless homes are simply far more likely to live in poverty than those with a married father and mother living together. This is true despite the heroic efforts of single mothers, and we do not mean to disparage in any way the sacrifice and exhausting work of raising children alone. Instead, we should work to minimize the number who must do so. As a society, we can no longer ignore the reality that marriage is the fault line between the middle class and the poor.”

The report, Fatherlessness in Massachusetts:  The Economic and Social Costs To Our Commonwealth, was published in June 2023. It can be read here.


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