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Marriage Minutes: Why Do Children of Married Parents Do Better?
Researchers from the Bookings Institution wanted to know if children traditionally do better because their parents are married or because married couples tend to make more money and other factors.


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Researchers asked the question why kids of married parents do better.


The researchers looked at parental behaviors and measured things such as frequency of reading to children and physical affection.”
The following is a news item selected by the Hitched editors during the week of September 11, 2014.

Why Do Children of Married Parents Do Better?
There are countless studies that demonstrate that children of married parents do better in life. These kids typically do better in school (in all stages), including the fact that they're more likely to attend college; they're more likely to earn more money; and they're more likely to create their own stable families, which continues the cycle of prosperity. The big question is why? Does being married inherently provide this map to success or is it something within the structure of the institution that helps? Kimberly Howard and Richard V. Reeves at the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution asked this question, analyzing data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Howard and Reeves published their findings, titled, "The Marriage Effect: Money or Parenting?" To answer their question they looked at two big chunks of data: the income effect of marriage and the parenting effect of marriage.

When looking at income, it's known that married households tend to have higher incomes than non-married households. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that those who have higher education are more likely to be married than those with less education. Also, in households with two parents, there's potential for two incomes as opposed to one from a single parent. Money, of course, can provide for more nutritious food, outside education, and the freedom to spend more time parenting.

Which brings up the second point, which focuses on the benefits of having two parents around and the skills they can instill. The researchers looked at parental behaviors and measured things such as frequency of reading to children and physical affection. While having two parents to offer such support is clearly beneficial, the researchers found that marriage is merely the environment where this is more common, but the skills can be provided by single parents as well. When the researchers controlled for the income and the parenting skills, the gap between children of married parents and those of single parents closed significantly. In short, income and parenting behavior were more of a factor in how well off children were later in life than whether or not their parents were married.

With that said, the researchers determined that since policy and resources have traditionally been put toward the promotion of marriage, the gap between children might instead be better addressed through the promotion of policy that increased the income for single parents and to boost parenting skills.


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