Santorum on Poverty & "Broken Homes" (Part 2)

"I suspect that the vast majority of the 22% [of children] living in poverty are living in broken homes. [...] The reason the middle is hollowing out, the reason people aren't able to rise, is fundamentally a breakdown of the family structure in America and the consequence of that."

On Tuesday, July 21, 2015 on PBS News Hour with Judy Woodruff
Video & Transcript: PBS, PBS NewsHour YouTube

The Context: Rick Santorum sees rebuilding the American family and rebuilding the American economy as an inseparable pair. He calls the structure and characteristics of "family" into question when asked his proposals for addressing recent findings on child poverty (which include that there are more children living in poverty today than during the Recession). In his response, he cites Robert Putnam and Charles Murray (among other books, they are the respective authors of Bowling Alone and Losing Ground) as well as his own book It Takes A Family. In short, his answer to the question of childhood poverty is policies which "reknit" and "help stabilize and support stronger families."

Part 2 of 2

This is a continuation from yesterday's Part 1, in which we compared the poverty rates of families with married parents and families headed by single adults. Ultimately, we had to wonder whether the relationship Santorum drew between family structure and the prevalence of children living in poverty had more to do with the number of workers at home than the number of parents (or whether they are married). 

Whether single-earner families can survive (or thrive) has been a topic of conversation for many candidates of both parties since the decline of a "family wage." Regardless of one's stance on marriage or family structure, the ability to comfortably raise a family on a single income is consistently important to constituencies ranging from those who prioritize gender equality issues, professional and employment opportunities, middle-class family costs (such as day care), and personal choices on parenting.

And so, following yesterday's maps, we have constructed the same comparisons based on the number of workers rather than presence of married parents. First, we asked

What is the poverty rate for families with fewer than 2 workers? And what is the poverty rate for families with 2 or more workers? 

The side-by-side comparison suggests the same effects from the overall distribution of poverty for households with fewer than two workers, but the pattern is much less pronounced for families with more earners. Once again, to help control for that regional effect, we asked

How do the poverty rates for families with more and fewer workers compare across the country?

Generally speaking, the new map is not substantially different than yesterday's. Across the country, families with two or more workers are substantially better off than those without, suggesting that the disparity is more national than regional. But there are two differences of note. (1) The extreme results at both ends of the spectrum freckling the center of the country have lessened greatly, helping us read the map as a meaningful pattern rather than a collection of case-by-case particulars per county. And (2) by and large the intensity of the disparity between families with more earning workers and those with fewer is notably greater. 

For quick comparison: here are the maps from Part 1 and those from the previous atlas entries on poverty and single-parent families.