Three rules for avoiding poverty
The Kansas City Star
The Brookings Institute isn’t known for being a bastion of conservative research. In much the same way, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback doesn’t have a reputation as a bleeding-heart liberal. Some might considered them polar opposites.
The fact that these two agree on anything is noteworthy, but that they can come to a consensus on a social issue is nearly miraculous.
Ron Haskins of Brookings Institute delivered remarkable testimony before the first meeting of the Governor’s Task Force on Reducing Childhood Poverty. The Institute cited its census-based study that revealed three rules that nearly guaranteed success. The best part, in this age of fiscal crisis, is that the rules are free, simple, and require no government handouts.
What is surprising is that there are no newspaper headlines crying, “Research uncovers secrets to success.” Why hasn’t “Good Morning America” requested an interview on the simple steps that can lead children from poverty to prosperity? Where are the teachers’ unions, screaming “Eureka”?
Here’s the quote from the Haskins:
“Young people can virtually assure that they and their families will avoid poverty if they follow three elementary rules for success — complete at least a high school education, work full time and wait until age 21 and get married before having a baby. Based on an analysis of Census data, people who followed all three of these rules had only a 2 percent chance of being in poverty and a 72 percent chance of joining the middle class (defined as above $55,000 in 2010).
“These numbers were almost precisely reversed for people who violated all three rules, elevating their chance of being poor to 77 percent and reducing their chance of making the middle class to 4 percent.”
Follow the above and you have a three-out-of-four chance of winning the game of life. Violate them, and the odds are severely stacked against you.
Hold off sending me an email telling me this is common sense. I agree. There’s not a Midwesterner I know who wouldn’t say that this is obvious. As true as that is, it’s being virtually ignored by the media.
Where it’s not being ignored, reporters have been downright hostile to what most consider pretty elementary advice.
Perhaps our media should be cautious, as there are several pro-marriage members on the governor’s task force. Maybe there is an agenda beyond reducing poverty, but the media’s hostility when actually reporting on this topic leads me to believe they might also have an agenda of their own.
Even if some sort of pro-marriage conspiracy exists, when did encouraging the institution of marriage, the very bedrock of our civilization, turn into such a terrible thing?
Perhaps Walter Williams is correct when he was recently quoted saying, “The government has said to many young women, I am the father. And so the fathers … have become dispensable.” In other words, the very welfare programs designed to lift up the impoverished have had the opposite effect.
The Brookings Institute findings, embraced by the Kansas Task Force, merely states that it’s a mistake to drop out, they point out that its smarter to wait until you’re old enough to legally order a Budweiser before getting married or have a child and — my personal favorite — it says to avoid poverty, work.
These findings should be embraced and encouraged. They offer tremendous hope to anyone less fortunate.
They reaffirm truths that helped make this country great. Namely, that the vast majority of individuals — without government aid or social programs — have within their grasp the ability to succeed and prosper.
Joey McLiney of Kansas City runs a private investment firm specializing in municipal finance. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108.