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ANN COULTER WRONG ON ILLEGITIMACY RATES


By David R. Usher
March 1, 2009
NewsWithViews.com

In her piece last week “Goodbye, America! It Was Fun While it Lasted,” Ann Coulter made a worrisome misrepresentation of illegitimacy and the Republican legacy of Welfare reform.

“The 1996 Welfare Reform bill marked the first time any government entitlement had ever been rolled back. Despite liberal howling and foot-stomping, not subsidizing illegitimacy led, like night into day, to less illegitimacy.

Welfare recipients got jobs, as the hard-core unemployables were coaxed away from their TV sets and into the workforce. For the first time in decades, the ever-increasing illegitimacy rate stopped spiraling upward.

As proof that that welfare reform was a smashing success, a few years later, Bill Clinton started claiming full credit for the bill.”

This (not uncommon) misunderstanding about welfare’s success is destroying Conservatives’ ability to advance social policy thinking and develop sorely-needed winning political agenda.

It is time the welfare-success-fantasy be put to rest.

A brief history of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, followed by social data results, proves the welfare reform was not a success – particularly with respect to illegitimacy.

The 1996 federal welfare reform policy goals were based on findings contained in “Families First, the Report of the National Commission on America’s Urban Families,” [1] issued in the last days of the H.W. Bush administration. The statement of findings of this document, adopted into welfare reform goals, was flawless. The goals of 1996 welfare reforms were to:

1. “provide assistance to needy families,“
2. “prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock births,”
3. “encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families,” and
4. “end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work and marriage.”

The 1996 welfare reforms were not successful because nothing in the legislation addressed items 2 and 3 – the most important and politically-positive elements of welfare reform goals.

Today illegitimacy is at record levels – predominantly involving mature women aged 20 to 40.[2] Since federal welfare reforms were enacted in 1996, illegitimacy has risen an astonishing 36.2%.[3] Since 1960, when 5.3% of children were born out of wedlock, illegitimacy has skyrocketed 694%.[4]

Welfare reform has not improved marriage rates – which dived 22.7% since 1967.[5] [6], In fact, the marriage rate in 2005 [7] was lower than the marriage rate during the 1932 Great Depression. [8]


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Poverty rates have improved since welfare reform was enacted in 1996. Between 1995 and 2005, poverty for single-female households fell 14.7%. [9] [10] But the record low for poverty was achieved in 1999 and 2000, [11] and has been rising again at rate of .75% annually. [12] This is attributable to provisions forcing women to work.

Welfare reform also brought dramatic reductions in public welfare dependence. The number of families on welfare assistance declined 61.2%, from 4.54-million families in 1996 [13] to 1.76 million families in December, 2006. [14]

The design of welfare reform essentially privatized welfare -- substituting public welfare dependency for another major problem – tremendous amounts of uncollectible child support – yielding little actual net change in net welfare expenditures.

In 2006 there were 15.8 million child support collections cases covering 17.3 million children. [15] Of these, 11.1 million child support cases were in arrears, and 6.8-million not paying anything. [16]

The child support arrearage for FY 1996 was only 8.1 billion. [17] This exploded 369% to $29.9-billion for FY 2006. [18] Total uncollected child support was $40 billion in 1996. [19] This nearly doubled to $75.4 billion in 1999, [20] to $83.9 billion in 2000, [21] and reached a record $105.4 billion in 2006. [22]

In the final analysis, welfare reform was more a failure than a success. This reality runs contrary to bipartisan reports suggesting that welfare reform has been a success. [23] The positive news about decreases in poverty and welfare caseloads [24] does not survive the bad news about skyrocketing illegitimacy rates, decreased marriage rates, unrecoverable child support, and downstream problems such as widespread health care coverage problems, retirement savings shortfalls, home-loan defaults, declining child well-being statistics, burgeoning urban crime statistics – all of which contributed significantly to collapse of our financial systems.

We must consider welfare reform an incomplete but necessary work in progress. The unstable state of welfare reform provides compelling reasons to complete what we set out to accomplish in 1996.

Republican inactivity on social policy is a major reason why Republicans have been losing elections in droves since 1996. Illegitimacy immediately translates into votes for liberal politicians and a bigger welfare state.

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I am working on “Marriage Values” policies and legislation in Missouri. The first legislation of the series should be introduced this session. I firmly believe that “Marriage Values” policies address root social problems in ways that are positive to women, men, and taxpayers in ways that will render big government “solutions” as unnecessary and stupid as the caboose on a rusting steam-powered freight train.

Footnotes:

1. Center For Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Reports: Births: Final Data for 2004, September 29, 2006, figure 7.
2. Child Trends Data Bank, Percentage of Births to Unmarried Women, Figure 1, Illegitimacy rates rose from approximately 27% of all births in 1995 to 36.8% of all births in 2005.
3. Child Trends Data Bank, Percentage of Births to Unmarried Women, Figure 1.
4. Center For Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Reports: Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths, Provisional Data for 2005, Table A.
5. Center For Disease Control, 100 Years of Marriage and Divorce Statistics United States, 1867 – 1967, Table 1. p. 27, The marriage rate in 1967 was 9.7 per 1,000.
6. Ibid., fn 2; The marriage rate was 7.5 per 1000 women.
7. National Center for Health Statistics, Marriages, Trends and Characteristics; Series 21, Number 21, 1967, page 2, The marriage rate in 1932 was 7.9 per 1,000 women.
8. U.S. Census Bureau, Historical Poverty Tables, Table 2, Poverty Status of People by Family Relationship, Race, and Hispanic Origin, 1959 to 2005, Families with female householder no husband present, All Races.
9. Ibid. fn 2; In 2005, about 13.1-million single-female households lived at or below 100% of the poverty threshold.
10. Ibid. fn 2; In 2000, only 28.5% of single-female families lived in poverty.
11. Ibid. fn 2.
12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Aid to Families With Dependent Children, 1996 AFDC Total Caseload.
13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance; TANF: Total Number of Families.
14. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, FY 2006 Child Support Enforcement Preliminary Data Report, Table 4: Statistical Program Status, FY 2006.
15. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, FY 2006 Child Support Enforcement Preliminary Data Report, Table 6: Cases With Arrears Due And Cases Paying Towards Arrears, FY 2006.
16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 21st Annual OCSE Annual Report.
17. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, FY 2006 Child Support Enforcement Preliminary Data Report, Table 5: Current Arrears Collections Due And Distributed, FY 2006.
18. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 21st Annual OCSE Annual Report, Appendix A: 1996 Program Results, p. 14;
19. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Years 1999 and 2000, Table 75: Total Amount of Arrearages Due, FY 1999;
20. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Years 1999 and 2000, Table 76: Total Amount of Arrearages Due, FY 2000;
21. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, FY 2006 Child Support Enforcement Preliminary Data Report, Table 5: Current Arrears Collections Due And Distributed, FY 2006;
22. The Heritage Foundation, Welfare Reform Turns Ten: Evidence Shows Reduced Dependence, Poverty, August 1, 2006;
23. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, TANF Caseload Composition, Caseload Dynamics and Leavers, 1993-2006, Figure 1;
24.
In January 1996, there were 4,627,941 AFDC/TANF families. In January, 2006, there were 1,846381 AFDC/TANF families.

2009 David Usher - All Rights Reserved

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David R. Usher is Legislative Analyst for the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition and is a co-founder and past Secretary of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

E-Mail: drusher@swbell.net


 

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A brief history of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, followed by social data results, proves the welfare reform was not a success – particularly with respect to illegitimacy...