This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It Takes a Village

In response to my note yesterday about education and health, someone led me to a story from the Christian Science Monitor suggesting that communities needed to work together to "save the family" by encouraging young couples with children to stay together, and they followed up with this question:
Do you think this is correct? That the USA must save families to prevent poverty? I feel this sort of message discriminates against single parents and makes them feel they are in some way failures. I can't see how this sort of article can be published in a country where all are equal. This sort of article will make single parents feel inferior and thus has no place in the American press.
The reality is that children growing up in poverty do not have as good a set of life chances as those who grow up in families with more resources per person. Currently in the United States, one in five children lives in a family with income at or below the poverty level and nearly half live in low-income families (at or below twice the poverty level). One of the major issues is that a large proportion of children living in low-income families are living in a single-parent household:
32 percent of all children with married parents – 15.5 million – live in low-income families.
69 percent of all children with a single parent – 16.4 million – live in low-income families.
This cannot bode well for the future of the country and a natural policy question is:  What can we do about this? The article that inspired the comment suggests that communities should be doing all they can to make it easier for couples to stay together--noting that at the time of birth most mothers are still in a relationship with the child's father. Two incomes instead of one clearly improves the situation economically. If there are other ways to improve the economic circumstances of each child--if the village can step up in other ways--then they too could be implemented, but these other things are harder to define and implement.


  1. Federal Poverty guidelines are set by "Family of 4". Does this include 2 adults with 2 children or 1 adult with 3 children?

  2. Yes, it could include any combination of adults and children.