Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 11, 2014
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Marriage


Mr. GARRETT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding to me, and for leading this Special Order this evening in recognition of what week we are in, Celebrating Marriage Week, and recognizing the very importance that marriage has to our society.

Our society it can be said is built on four pillars: marriage, family, church, and the government, and today, we are faced with the reality that one of these pillars is crowding out and attempting to change the makeup of the other three. We have seen that some of our government's policies have discouraged traditional family marriage and traditional family structure as well, but I believe our government has an obligation to support policies that support marriage and support the American dream.

One of the most positive influences on a society is a strong family structure. Marriage itself is essential. It is essential to society, and it is essential to our American country and the American Dream. What I say is not ideology; what I say is data-driven. It is verified by the facts that marriage alone stands as a strong social fabric, a stronger economy, and a better future for our children. See, individuals who are part of a marriage household, a married household, are more likely to overcome disadvantaged backgrounds. They are less likely to live in poverty. Married individuals are more likely to earn more money, to save more money, and are less likely to be in debt. See, marriage is not only important for the economic health of our Nation, but it is also important for future generations as well. Children are more likely to succeed not only if they come from a married household, but the chances of prosperity, and this is interesting, are greater even further if they are raised in a community, a neighborhood, if you will, that shares the value of marriage. Children who come from a married household, to give one statistic, are 82 percent less likely to live in poverty and are more likely to gain a college education and succeed in society.

What is most essential to note is it is not only imperative for a child to be raised in a two-parent household, but it is also important for children to be raised, as I said a moment ago, in a community that values marriage and values family. Children who are raised in that sort of community will have higher rates of upward social mobility. I would note, to truly address some of the issues that Congress here tries to address, such as child poverty, we must address the root causes of those problems, and we must then acknowledge a solution to those problems as well.

So if you want to encourage economic growth, reduce poverty and ensure a prosperous Nation for future children, our government must encourage a strong family structure.

I said once before that this is not ideology-driven, this is data-driven. Why do I say that? Well, if you want to try to answer the question of what are the factors that are preventing, for example, poor children from getting ahead, for mobility, we have data to support it. There is an important new Harvard study that looks at the best data on mobility in America that just came out recently. The name of that study is ``Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States.'' It is a long title, but basically a study that came out of Harvard by economist Raj Chetty, and some of these colleagues over in Berkeley as well.

What they did was to dive down into the numbers, if you will, to see what are the characteristics most likely to predict mobility for lower-income children. This Harvard study asked which factors are the strongest predictors of upward mobility in various situations. In other words, which are the factors you can look to to see what is it that will bring children in poverty situations to a higher level. They went through all of the various factors you might imagine, but of all of the factors most predictive of economic mobility in America, one that clearly stands out above the rest is family structure, meaning what we are talking about here today, marriage.

I will quote from the study, if I may:

The strongest and most robust predictor is the fraction of children with single parent.

In other words, the strongest indicator of where they are going to have a problem with social mobility, in other words the indicator that says what is most likely to suppress or to keep children from being able to rise up and increase their stature in the community, to be able to go to college, get a job and support themselves and be productive in society, in short, live the American Dream, is whether or not they come from single-family households or whether they come from a married situation:

Children of married parents also have higher rates of upper mobility if they live in communities with fewer single parents.

Why do I say that? Well, again, what this recognizes is it is not just an isolationist situation, it is not just if you alone are married; it depends on whether or not you live in a neighborhood or you live in a community where everyone else around you is married, too. If you do, then you are a fortunate child because you live in a situation where you are more likely to be able to say: My future is good; my future is one where I am going to be able to prosper. My future is one where I will probably be able to move out of my current economic situation and do better.

So those two factors: it is whether you come from single parents or married parents, and also whether you live in a community where people around you are all single or people around you are all married.

So I think it is interesting. It is also interesting that this study comes not from some university that you might think of as being more conservative, but coming from Berkeley and Harvard, I guess we consider the source.

In closing, a lot of research, including some new research from Brookings Institution, shows what has already been shown, the first point, and that is to say if you are married, you have a better chance of rising up the economic ladder. This study now adds the additional feature of the community aspect.

My third point, what we are saying here tonight, is not ideology-driven at all. What I am referring to is a data-driven decision that we can make as Members of Congress. As a recent author pointed out, we just had the President of the United States standing before us saying that we must be a data-driven Congress and a data-driven government, and I agree with him. The data is now out there. The data shows to increase opportunity in America, to increase upward mobility in America, to sustain the American Dream, people of all races and people of all income levels have a far better chance if they come from a married family and a married community as well. So to understand this and have government have an effect on civil society, we must understand these parameters, and I applaud the gentleman for bringing this very important issue to the floor tonight.