It’s Not Poverty; It’s Family

It’s Not Poverty; It’s Family

2018 | Week of July 23 | #1265

Family structure matters. It really matters. Family structure matters to children. It matters to adults. It matters to churches. It matters to communities, states and even nations. We’ve been saying that at Wisconsin Family Council for decades.  We’re glad some others in Wisconsin are finally picking up on this bedrock truth.  It’s too bad it has taken the tragedy of the opioid crisis to do it.

I don’t know of any community in The Badger State that has not been touched by the opioid drug epidemic. Everywhere I go around the state, I hear elected officials, law enforcement, school officials, members of the clergy, and concerned parents and community members talking about it. We’ve tried blaming the medical field; we’ve talked about illegal immigration contributing to the problem. Wisconsin has passed a number of laws in the last couple of years to address some of the contributing factors of how the drugs become so readily available.  I’m glad we’ve done that; we certainly need to work on cutting off the source.

In the midst of all the discussion about this crisis, many have tried to say that it’s mostly a crisis for those living in poverty.  In other words, poverty is the cause. If we could eliminate poverty, they intimate, then we could begin getting a handle on substance abuse.  Much of the time their idea for eliminating poverty is to have more tax-payer-funded welfare programs. Pushing back against such an idea is difficult because it makes the person who doesn’t agree look as if he or she is mean, hateful or discriminatory and just wants to keep people in poverty. Obviously, that’s not true; but it is a reason so many of these types of ideas become enacted policy.

Poverty gets blamed for a lot quite honestly; in fact, it’s pretty much the de facto reason given for many of our societal ills—and for the most part the recommended poverty antidote is just more handouts.

That’s why it’s so refreshing when a Wisconsin organization does the heavy lifting to show that at least in one specific area—opioid use—it’s not poverty but family structure that matters.

Last week Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty issued a report on a study[1] they have conducted regarding family structure and opioid hospitalizations—in addition to poverty and children in foster care. The top four takeaways from this study are enlightening:

  1. The primary indicator of opioid abuse in Wisconsin is family structure—not poverty. Counties with higher rates of single-parent families are more likely to have higher rates of opioid hospitalizations.
  2. Poverty was found to have no statistically significant relationship with the rate of opioid abuse when controlled for family structure. Counties with low income but traditional family structures can have lower rates of opioid abuse.
  3. Family structure also matters for the number of children in foster care. Counties with higher rates of single mothers are more likely to have higher rates of children in foster care.
  4. As observed throughout the country, counties in Wisconsin with higher rates of married families have lower rates of poverty.

Poverty isn’t the culprit. Family structure is. Children being raised by their married dad and mom are in the very best environment possible to avoid a host of bad things happening to them, including abuse of substances such as drugs and alcohol and, yes, poverty.

The best antidote to poverty and the best antidote to the current opioid crisis isn’t more taxpayer money given out via the government.  The best antidote quite honestly is marriage.  Today many scoff at this idea, alleging it’s old fashioned, too simplistic, no one believes in marriage any more, ya da ya ya da. While they are scoffing, the evidence mounts in our favor, just as we see in this report from Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

If our state really wants to address this opioid crisis that is backing up into our foster-care system and damaging real people, then we need to begin promoting policies that encourage people to marry—not live together—but actually marry.

We need policies that begin helping people wean themselves off government programs and handouts that give them more money to not marry the father or mother of their children than if they marry that person. We need to take seriously incentivizing marriage.  If we are serious about curtailing this opioid crisis, ending poverty, reducing the number of kids in our foster-care program and improving a host of other societal maladies, we will get serious about family structure. It matters. It really matters.

This is Julaine Appling with Wisconsin Family Council, reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”



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