Marriage Measures Guide of State-Level Statistics. Marriage and Low-Income Children

03/30/2008

The third and fourth tables for each state report statistics related to marriage and low-income children.  Much of the policy interest in marriage and relationship quality stems from concerns about how parental marital status affects the well-being of children, particularly low-income children.  Therefore, information concerning the distribution of low-income children across various family types would be very helpful for policymakers setting priorities for healthy marriage programs.  For example, if a state has a particularly high concentration of low-income children living with married parents in rural areas, then state policymakers may want to focus their resources on programs for low-income married parents in these areas.  Alternatively, if most low-income children in the state live with unmarried parents in urban areas, then state policymakers may want to focus their healthy marriage programs on this population.

The statistics in these tables are based on survey data from the 2006 ACS, the same data source used to calculate state-level divorce statistics (described earlier).  Some of the key statistics reported in these tables include the following:

  • Distribution of Children Living in Low-Income Families.  The top panel of the third table for each state shows the overall distribution of low-income children by family type.  For example, the national averages in the far right-hand column of the table indicate that 45 percent of the countrys low-income children are living with married parents, 15 percent are living with never-married single parents, and 18 percent are living with single parents who are separated, widowed, or divorced.  The data set does not distinguish between biological parents, adoptive parents, and stepparents.  In our analyses, we defined low-income children as those living in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.  Most of the children classified as having unknown family types live in complex multifamily or multigenerational households that cannot be accurately distinguished in the 2006 ACS data (see Technical Appendix for details).  Nationally, the unknown category accounts for less than 10 percent of all low-income children.  Additional statistics on the number of low-income children in each state are presented near the end of the guide in Appendix A.
  • Distribution of Low-Income Children Between Rural and Urban Areas.  The subgroup estimates for rural and urban areas (third table) were calculated following the same approach we used to calculate geographic differences in state-level divorce statistics.  As explained earlier, this approach may overstate the size of the urban population in some states.  Moreover, the definitions of rural and urban areas follow statistical standards established by the U.S. Census, which may not correspond with how state or local residents define these areas.  For these reasons, readers should use caution when interpreting the statistics for rural and urban areas.  The symbol NA means that the information is not available because either (1) the area includes a small group of fewer than 5,000 low-income children or (2) the specific family type listed accounts for less than 2 percent of the areas low-income children.  Appendix A near the end of the guide reports additional statistics on the total number of low-income children living in rural and urban areas for nine regions of the country.
  • Distribution of Low-Income Children by Racial/Ethnic Background.  The fourth table for each state reports racial/ethnic differences in the distribution of low-income children across family types.  The estimates for whites and African Americans are limited to non-Hispanics in these groups.  The estimates for Hispanics include children from all races.  The symbol NA means that the information is not available because either (1) there are fewer than 5,000 low-income children in that racial/ethnic group or (2) the specific family type listed accounts for less than 2 percent of the groups low-income children. Appendix A near the end of the guide reports additional statistics on the number of low-income children by racial/ethnic background for nine regions of the country.

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