WASHINGTON — Churches, community groups and political leaders are using the week ahead of Valentine's Day to emphasize the link between marriage and reduced poverty.
“Marriage is really the unsung anti-poverty program because single motherhood is the greatest source of impoverishment for both women and children,” Sheila Weber, executive director of National Marriage Week USA, said in the campaign's introductory video.
In a Jan. 22 statement, she said the need for a pro-marriage campaign is “greater than ever.”
“For the sake of the next generation, we think that marriage deserves just as much of a positive campaign as recycling or anti-smoking. Marriage is good for America.”
Weber said that children do best “at every level” when they grow up with both their mother and father. She added that out-of-wedlock birth is the “greatest predictor of poverty” for women and children.
According to the executive director, married adults have greater wealth, live longer, are happier and have better health. Children raised by both a mother and a father do better in school and are much less likely to commit crime. They are also less likely to be involved in teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol addiction.
More than 40% of children today are born out of wedlock, compared to less than 5% in 1960, the campaign website said. Only 52% of adults today are married, compared with nearly 80% in 1970.
The Heritage Foundation has said that married parents decrease the likelihood of child poverty by over 80%. A Brookings Institution report has said if the modern marriage rate were the same as the 1970 rate, poverty would be down 25%.
Besides the many social costs, unwed childbearing is estimated to cost taxpayers $112 billion each year.
National Marriage Week takes place Feb. 7-14. It aims to raise awareness in the media and among policy leaders about marriage as a national issue. It focuses both on the benefits of marriage for children and on the economic stability that marriage produces.
The campaign has also created a national calendar for marriage classes, conferences and other events to help married couples.
Congress members who attended the campaign's 2012 inaugural event include Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and 14 U.S. Representatives.
Participants in the campaign include a Chicago-area group that has encouraged 500 churches to hold “date nights” for married couples. A Louisiana group has sought out the state’s 10 longest-married couples to honor them, while an Ohio group organized a dinner and dance with a renewal of vows ceremony.
National Marriage Week started in the U.K. in 1996. It is being observed in 20 countries. Its website is www.nationalmarriageweekusa.org.