Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Poverty Policies Must Acknowledge that Marriage Is Commonplace for Low-Income Families With Children
Press Release

RELEASE: Poverty Policies Must Acknowledge that Marriage Is Commonplace for Low-Income Families With Children

Washington, D.C. — The Center for American Progress today released a new issue brief that outlines policies to strengthen economic opportunity for working families, no matter if parents are married, cohabiting, or single. The brief calls for a balanced debate around economic insecurity for married and partnered families and undermines the myth of marriage being the silver-bullet fix for poverty.

Using data compiled by the Government Accountability Office, the brief demonstrates that most people in low-income families with children—66 percent, or just more than 33 million people—are in married or cohabiting-couple families. People in such families are also the largest share of people in low-income families who benefit from the social safety net and utilize tools such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Earned Income Tax Credit; housing assistance; or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children to avoid poverty.

“For those who believe that government and civil society should play a proactive role in bolstering marriage and family stability, the failure to acknowledge the extent of married and coupled poverty is counterproductive,” said Shawn Fremstad, a Senior Fellow at CAP. “We need policies that support stable and healthy relationships and economic security for all families.”

The brief provides basic facts about differences in low-income rates for three family types—married-couple, cohabiting-couple, and single-parent families with children—and looks at, by family type, the share of low-income people in families with children and the share of people in families with children that receive major means-tested benefits. It also includes resources on related research looking at how poverty and other financial stressors are risk factors for marital discord and divorce.

Read the full issue brief, “Partnered But Poor,” by Shawn Fremstad online here.

Related resources:

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Liz Bartolomeo at or 202.481.8151.