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Poverty Report: Not a word on marriage

Richard Lewis

8 August 2008

Poverty Report: Not a word on marriage, the poverty buster

Yesterday a report was released on child poverty commissioned by the Children's Commissioner and Barnardos called, “A Fair Go For Children - Actions to Address Child Poverty in New Zealand.”

The report says about 230,000 (22 percent) of New Zealand children live in poverty, which is more than the entire population of North Shore City (205,605) or the Manawatu-Wanganui region (222,423).

The report highlights what is commonly known, that children living in sole-parent families are exposed to a significantly higher risk of poverty than those in two-parent families. It makes a number of proposals towards addressing child poverty but I am surprised that not a single recommendation goes towards encouraging enduring two parent families, which are the universally tried and proven stable basis for child-raising and the strongest economic platform any child could hope to experience.

Research tells us that married men generally earn more than single, divorced or cohabiting men.* It goes without saying that the combined earning potential of two is obviously, better than one. Yet it’s not just about financial wherewithal. The role of both parents in the lives of their children from the formative years through to adulthood simply cannot be measured. We are becoming increasingly aware that the majority of children and young adults involved in crime, drug and alcohol abuse and educational underachievement are more often than not, raised without dad in the home.

The report by in large, looks to the state to solve the problem of child poverty and to a certain extent insulates parents and potential parents from the weight of responsibility that comes with parenthood. As an example, the report proposes removing the penalty on DPB beneficiaries who refuse to name liable parents. In other words, the state absolves and assumes responsibility for the child's parents. To my mind, such an approach will only further entrench the current culture of sole parenting as a career option, which is a major contributor towards child poverty in the first place. Notwithstanding our collective social responsibility towards the issue of child poverty, the state cannot and should not try to replace the role of parents in the home.

One of the major goals of the Family Party is to promote a marriage culture for the benefit of all children and their families. The intergenerational effect of two-parent families building their own economies is the most powerful environment we can create for children and will ensure they get the best possible start in life. It is a careful balance between meeting the vital needs of children who through no fault of their own, live in circumstances detrimental to their wellbeing, whilst ensuring that the state is not cultivating that environment in the first place.


*M.N. Ozawa and Y. Lee, "The Net Worth of Female-Headed Households: A Comparison to Other Types of Households," Family Relations no. 55 (2006); S. Korenman and D. Neumark, "Does Marriage Really Make Men More Productive?," Journal of Human Resources 26, no. 2 (1991); L.A. Lillard and L.J. Waite, "Til Death Do us Part: Marital Disruption and Mortality."

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