Poverty. It seems every politician wants to address it and has ideas for how to alleviate it. Often those ideas involve giving people more money through government hand-out programs.
Poverty is certainly an issue a compassionate society should pay attention to, especially since poverty so often is generational, meaning if one generation is in poverty, it’s likely that succeeding generations will be, unless something significant happens to break the cycle. Giving more welfare doesn’t constitute something significant; unfortunately, too often, that approach entrenches poverty.
But there is a significant something that can break the cycle and is almost fool-proof in ensuring that a person or even a family avoids poverty. Research done by the Brookings Institute shows that there are three steps, if done in order, result in avoiding poverty in the vast majority of people, regardless of ethnicity, race, or economic background.
Brookings calls this the “Success Sequence,” which consists of graduate high school, get a full-time job, and get married before having children. According to Institute for Family Studies, [quote] “the latest research shows that 97% of young people who follow all three steps are not poor as adults….In comparison, half of adults in their 30s who missed all three steps (52%) are in poverty.”[end quote]
Organizationally, we would add a couple of subpoints in the sequence. First, thoroughly vet the person you are thinking of marrying. Doing so can help to ensure a marriage that will go the distance. Second, once you are married, do everything you can to stay married to that person, especially if there are children involved. We think these subpoints are important, but even without them, the Success Sequence has the basic essentials.
That said, given the numbers from the research, one would think politicians concerned about poverty would be all over the Success Sequence, funding it and promoting it widely. But that’s not the case.
In Governor Walker’s last budget in 2017, he proposed putting a modest $1 million towards promoting the Success Sequence in public schools and in the public square.
Unfortunately, in spite of the solid research, the obvious need, and the reasonable amount of money, the Republican-led state legislature removed all funding for the “Success Sequence” in the final version of the budget that they passed and the governor signed into law. This was extremely short-sighted and would mean more taxpayer money going to government welfare programs since more people would be in poverty.
As I thought about why the Republicans scratched funding for this proven anti-poverty sequence, I realized it wasn’t the money. I think it’s the sequence itself—not the first two steps, but the last one that too many of them struggled with. That step is certainly the one that liberals object to, and I’ve come to believe many conservatives do as well. The majority of Republicans in that session were uncomfortable asserting that child-bearing should be within marriage. That sounds too much like making a “moral judgment” for many of them.
Governor Evers will be presenting his idea of a budget within the next month; the Republicans, with strong majorities in both the senate and the assembly, will begin dissecting it and in many ways rewriting it. The governor’s proposal, I’m confident, won’t mention the “Success Sequence,” but the Republicans ought to include it with significant funding—if they are serious about getting people out of poverty. They should mount a meaningful, statewide PR campaign, as well as require that public schools promote the sequence in some way.
Imagine the difference in this state over even the next ten years, if more and more young people get the message that they can avoid poverty and pretty much live the American dream if they finish high school, get a full-time job, and marry before having children. But many young people will never hear about the Success Sequence because too few people talk about , and the state hasn’t devoted any resources to it.
Even if the state opts out of promoting the Success Sequence, we can teach and share the sequence with the young people in our sphere of influence, especially since the Success Sequence is basically God’s plan—get educated and trained, work, and marry before having children. As always, God’s way really is the best way. Doing life His way, is the significant something that can break a generational poverty cycle.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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