Robert Rector – Single Mothers & Poverty in America


Robert Rector

A new report by the conservative group The Heritage Foundation looks at the issue of poverty in America with a unique take on why it’s a growing problem: single mothers. Robert Rector, senior research fellow at the Foundation, explains.


  1. The statistic is not surprising, and we shouldn’t fear it. But we should not assume that boys and young men do not want to raise children out of poverty. It is true that the message may reverberate more with young women, but the responsibility for out of wedlock pregnancies rests equally with men. Marriage must be shown to benefit men, as well as women and children to become more popular.

  2. Where are is this guy getting his statics.. When was the study done? the 1950’s .. Most single women with children work at under or close to poverty level jobs. EVEN IF THEY ARE Married doesn’t mean there are two liveable incomes to sustain a home with children.. Especially if there are day care costs involved. His views feed into the right wing sterotype of wonen’s submission to the men. Also I a the breadwinner of the house. My husband has been unemployed for years. I am suprised that Tavis did not bring up family planning and contraception options when talking to young women and men.

  3. Hi Tavis,
    I think the Heritage Foundation clearly has a great message but I think it’s also obvious they have a religious agenda. If they were actually concerned with children in poverty they would not be so focused on whether or not the parents are married. I think marriage and poverty are only correlated; nd correlation does not mean causation. The real message we should be sending out youth is stay in school and practice safe sex.

  4. Robert Rector doesn’t seem to realize that marriage lasts only as long as both spouses would like it to. Commitment to a family does not depend on a marriage certificate. I was very grateful that when I needed to divorce my husband I could do so. If my children had been forced to live within a marriage as unhappy/abusive as ours had become, they would have suffered far more than they did because I “split up my family”. (Fortunately, I was a teacher and could afford the divorce and being a single parent.)

    If Mr Rector is really concerned about children of single-parent families where poverty is an issue, he should be advocating for adequate support for those children from our society. This could be in the form of welfare payments or, preferably, a minimum wage that allows working parents to live in dignity above the poverty level.

    The argument that “we can’t afford it” is empty. Since most single mothers clearly can’t afford to get out of poverty, and since the children who grow up in poverty will likely become a ‘burden to society’ either in prison, in mental health care, on welfare, or homeless (and yes, they, too, cost our society) we can’t afford to NOT afford it.

    And since there are many wealthy people and many corporations who pay very low or no taxes (and especially since many wealthy amongst us achieved their status by exploiting the poor in the US or elsewhere in the world!), perhaps it’s time we expect them to contribute their share. But, then, that’s a whole other problem!

  5. Giving young women more information from a source they trust about what their longer term outcomes are — for them as well as for their children — can be a great help, especially if it’s in real economic terms. Banerjee & Duflo’s book, _Poor Economics_, describes some studies in the section “Sex, School Uniforms, and Sugar Daddies” (pp. 113 – 119), that might bring some interesting insights, even though they describe a different context.

    On another note, as someone with visual challenges, I find this light font color (light grey against a grey background) and miniscule font size to be unwelcoming. It would be helpful to use a stronger contrast and larger font.

  6. If we’re talking about the poverty level of single mothers, why is there no mention of statistics regarding financial assistance from the fathers? I would imagine that this is a significant factor. My intuition leads me to believe that if the fathers were fiscally responsible that this would be much less of a problem.

  7. I totally agree that child poverty is in an alarming need of help. But both you and Robert Rector missed the most critical point in discussing marriage in our 2012 moment. In discussing the need to inform younger women about the precarious prospects of single parenthood, it was suggested that young parents need to understand the dangers of having a child out of wedlock. Now just looking at the word ‘wedlock’ tells most of the story. The word LOCK is dangerous. Sounds almost like a trap destined to became life sentence rather than a joyous union. I am a mother of two children and in a marriage of over twenty years and what i have found is that the institution of marriage is in critical need of reinvention. It’s an institution that is antiquated and needs new criteria due to fact that women’s role in our culture has drastically changed in the past century thus shifting the roles of men as providers, that our culture has accepted rotating ownership of children, and that marriage has become for many an empty co-existence and life sentence rather than a momentous partnership. I don’t necessarily have a solution but to bombard young women to NOT have a child without marriage is misguided. How many seriously mentally and emotionally damaged young people are there that have been forced to grow up in disfunctional families only to repeat the pattern and bring up further damaged young people? The cycle needs to stop somewhere. Perhaps single moms think they can do it alone and safer and maybe as a society we can have a larger support network for single parenthood so that it is an option rather than a forced life sentence. Ideally, yes, a beautiful bonding of two adults in love and like would be the ideal but in these complex social shifts as we are experiencing now there needs to be more option without the locks.

  8. I am happy to see that the issue of poverty is being discussed. But let’s not forget that it takes two to make a baby. I’d rather education and socialization programs target both girls and boys, men and women. And the TRUE cause of poverty is a lack of a federal living wage. (The minimum wage in Australia is around $15/hour, so it can be done at the national level.)

  9. It is funny to me when politicians try to place the blame on the lower class for the debt crisis because they feel that these people should not get funding from the government to help out their cause. I believe that it should be be an educational process in place in order to receive funding that will help these types of people get out of their current situations.

    • Where did he get his stats? It seems off..Lets talk about today..

  10. To offer marriage as a fix or to suggest marriage will and can lift a substantial amount of women and children out of poverty is a stretch. While marriage, becoming educated and planning are great ideas, one thing is for sure the issues discussed are interrelated and yet they are quite capable of standing alone at the same time.

    It’s disconcerting to know stats almost always tells us who and sometimes how and very seldom reveals why. What contributes to poverty? Once we answer this question, I think it’s safe to say marriage is not the best solution. We know that the lack of( external and internal) accountability, access denied, inequality, mismanagement or funding misappropriation, corruption, policies, politics, a lack of education, marginalization and the lack of representation, waste, teenage pregnancy, low self-esteem, addiction, mental disorders are factors that contribute to poverty. These issues are separate yet disturbingly equal and should be addressed as such because the issues are systemic.

    As for marriage: While people may believe in the sanctity and covenant of marriage. I think most would find it difficult to share space and time with individuals who do not share the same value system. After all, at the end of the day, this is what we are talking about. Do people devalue marriage or do thoughts of concept and purpose vary?

    The media and decision making: People are making decisions and are choosing based upon what they ultimately believe or have bought into. Marriages are becoming business deals. I very seldom hear any more people marrying because they genuinely love or like the individual. Very seldom do you hear women speak of substance, the thing that attracts. Hollywood tells us we strip off our clothing in heat from the very sight of someone, not because of a heart and soul connection. On any given day, pick up a magazine and it will tell you how to look unquenchable and how to have hot sex. Intimacy has become like religion for the masses, it just makes you feel good, it’s no longer about deeply rooted and spiritual relationship. Our moans and groans are dismissed, lost in the wind, who’s healing when the goal is to be the first to orgasm.

    If adults are not and cannot get it right, what lessons are our youth learning?

    Sounds like a republican battle song if you ask me.

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