Children living with married parents do better than children living with single or cohabiting parents. Virtually all sociologists acknowledge this simple truth. However, under the ubiquitous campus pressures to be politically correct, many social scientists try very hard to explain away this marital advantage as an artifact of socioeconomic characteristics other than marital status per se.
Both the advantage children experience by living with married parents and the urge progressive scholars feel to explain away that advantage are on full display in a study of children’s economic well-being recently published in the Journal of Marriage and Family by sociologists at Bowling Green State University.
Scrutinizing nationally representative data collected in 1999 from 42,000 households, the Bowling Green researchers outline a familiar and predictable pattern of marital advantage: Children living with married biological parents enjoy a decided economic advantage over those living with cohabiting biological parents, with single mothers, with married-couple stepfamilies, and with cohabiting stepfamilies. The official poverty level for children living with married biological parents runs less than 8%, compared with 23% for children living with cohabiting biological parents, 43% for those living with single mothers, 10% for those living with married stepfamilies, and 19% for those living with cohabiting stepfamilies. A similar pattern emerges in data for food and housing insecurity.
By using multivariable statistical analyses, the authors of the new study establish that for their overall sample “child and parent characteristics account for at least 70% of the difference in the well-being of children living in married and cohabiting two biological parent families.” The researchers consequently use such analyses to assert that “the benefits of marriage may be a result of parents’ education and race and ethnic group rather than marriage per se.” This assertion no doubt serves the authors’ ideological interests, since the political correctness of the modern university militates against belief in the social benefits of “marriage per se.”
But the data compel the authors to admit that “marriage per se” apparently confers some benefits that even multivariable analyses cannot account for. For instance, when looking at the data for black children, the authors concede that “the marital status gap in housing insecurity is not explained by the covariates in the [statistical] model.” Similarly, in multivariable analyses of the data of white children, the researchers find that “the marital advantage persists when considering a reduction in food and housing security.” Such findings force the researchers to concede that “among white children, there sometimes is a marriage advantage that cannot be accounted for by their parents’ socioeconomic characteristics.” For politically correct academics, such concessions can be quite painful.
(Source: Wendy D. Manning and Susan Brown, “Children’s Economic Well-Being in Married and Cohabiting Parent Families,” Journal of Marriage and Family 68 : 345-362.)
The original article can be found here: http://www.profam.org/pub/nr/nr.2103.htm#The_Mysterious_Marriage_Advantage