Professor Delena Prudhomme
Trends in Family’s Today
Changes in family structure and changes in poverty are closely related. Single-mother families are about five times as likely to be poor as married-parent families. Although they are less likely to be poor than they were 50 years ago, single parent families are more common, accounting for a larger share of all poor families. Moreover, eligibility for income support programs, including cash welfare, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, are tied to family composition.
In recent years, policymakers have sought not only to respond to family changes, but also to influence the decisions people make about marriage, divorce, and childbearing. Thus, poverty policies and family policies are increasingly tied.
If the apparent strength of the link between poverty and family structure seems obvious, its nature is less clear. For example, having a child before getting married is associated with an increased likelihood of poverty. However, living In poverty also raises the likelihood of no marital childbearing. In addition, decisions about work, marriage, and childbearing are increasingly disconnected. Women are now more likely to work, regardless of marital or parental status. Women are also more likely to have children independent of marriage, and married couples with children are more likely to divorce. Overall, there is greater variety in family forms; the members of any given family are increasingly likely to experience changes in household structure over time, and children are increasingly likely