by Brian Balfour
Senior Vice President of Research, John Locke Foundation
This latest report is far more notable for what it leaves out than for what it includes.
Included is data on childhood poverty by geography, community and race. But, stunningly and tellingly, there is no mention of the undeniable link between single parent households and poverty.
The intentional denial of such an overwhelmingly strong link is stunning in its brazen attempt to conceal the truth about an issue the authors pretend to care about, and telling in that it reveals that their motivations must be to advance a political narrative rather than paint a full picture of poverty in our state.
According to 2019 American Community Survey data produced by the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate in North Carolina for households with a married couple and at least one child in the home is 7%.
For a single mother household with at least one child in the home, the poverty rate balloons to 39% (data on generic single parent or single-father households is not available). In other words, children in single-mother homes are more than five times as likely to be in poverty.
For households with young children – 5 years old and under – the disparity is even more stark: 5.4% for married couples compared to 44.7% for single mother households. Young children in single-mother homes are more than 8 times as likely to live in poverty.
Young children in single-mother homes are more than 8 times as likely to live in poverty.
It is professional negligence to speak about poverty in North Carolina and ignore these facts.
So why ignore such important data?
Because it would undercut their preferred political outcomes, namely a continued expansion of the welfare state.
Welfare programs championed by the Left break up families by replacing a father’s paycheck with a government check and benefits. Nationally, since LBJ’s Great Society ratcheted up government welfare programs in the mid-1960s, the rate of unmarried births has tripled.
Indeed, in an analysis of data I presented a few years ago, I found that Policy Watch’s preferred “investments” in social welfare spending has, if anything, made poverty worse in North Carolina. After analyzing 25 years’ worth of data (from 1991 to 2016), I found that “during a time when real, per capita spending for the Left’s favored anti-poverty programs has more than doubled, poverty in North Carolina has — on average — been getting worse.”
Undaunted by facts, the Left nevertheless insists that more government welfare and dependency is the cure for poverty. They pretend that overcoming poverty is simply a matter of political will.
But subsidizing poverty does not reduce it.
Progressives pretend that overcoming poverty is simply a matter of political will.
Instead, as John Chamberlain, the late economic historian stated, “Poverty in society is overcome by productivity, and in no other way. There is no political alchemy which can transmute diminished production into increased consumption.”
Entrepreneurial investments in productivity-enhancing capital is the only way to reduce poverty. Big-government welfare programs drain the economy’s resources away from such investments, not to mention create dependency and incentives against productive investment and work.
Following the Left’s prescriptions for poverty will only lead to more poverty and accelerate a decline in the standard of living for the poor.