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Rick Santorum's Two-Step Plan To End Poverty


First Posted: 12/28/2011 3:51 pm Updated: 12/28/2011 4:11 pm

WASHINGTON -- At a campaign event in Iowa on Wednesday, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum laid out his simple two-point plan for eradicating poverty in America.

"Do you know if you do two things in your life -- if you do two things in your life, you're guaranteed never to be in poverty in this country? What two things, that if you do, will guarantee that you will not be in poverty in America?" he asked the crowd.

"Number one, graduate from high school. Number two, get married. Before you have children," he said. "If you do those two things, you will be successful economically. What does that mean to a society if everybody did that? What that would mean is that poverty would be no more. If you want to have a strong economy, there are two basic things we can do."

Santorum, however, is virulently against same-sex marriage, even though it would increase the number of marriages in the country and theoretically lower the nation's poverty rate, according to his logic.

A 2009 study by the Brookings Institution did find that Americans who finished high school, acquired a full-time job and waited until age 21 to get married before having children were much less likely to end up in poverty. In fact, "young adults who followed all three norms had a 2 percent chance of winding up in poverty and a 74 percent chance of winding up in the middle class (defined as earning roughly $50,000 or more). By contrast, young adults who violated all three norms had a 76 percent chance of winding up in poverty and a 7 percent chance of winding up in the middle class."

Santorum's plan, however, leaves out the second -- seemingly crucial -- part of that formula.

On Tuesday, Santorum argued that marriage in the U.S. was becoming rare and turning into "one of the alternative lifestyles," a theme he sounded off about on Wednesday as well.

However, a September report by the Economic Policy Institute found that focusing on the marriage rate -- as many of Santorum's fellow conservatives also do -- as a solution to poverty may constitute a backward approach.

"Continually high poverty rates among blacks and Latinos are the result of high unemployment and incarceration rates and declining shares of good jobs in the American economy," wrote Algernon Austin, the author of the study. "The decline in marriage among these groups is a collateral consequence of these negative economic conditions."

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