Republican Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday that the state should encourage young people to get married and only have children after they’re married to keep the Indiana economy strong.
Pence was speaking at the state’s first Family and the Economy Summit, an event his administration organized that included a number of national scholars and experts on family issues.
“It’s about the relationship between strong families and advancing economic opportunities for all Hoosiers,” the conservative said during his speech at the Indiana State Library.
“Family is a key indicator of success and we’re looking for ways that we can encourage more young people to get married, to stay married, to wait to have children until they’re married is very important,” he said.
Pence – who is being pushed by some conservatives to run for president – said that since he took office as governor last year, his administration has been putting “the interests of strong families at the very center of our policies on development.”
“The future of our children is impacted greatly by the nature of their relationship with strong, intact families that have a direct relationship to the opportunities and the economic advantages and the educational outcomes of our children,” he said.
But later on Tuesday, a group pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Indiana, said non-traditional families can also be a boon for the economy.
“We believe in the strength of all families and want to make sure committed, loving couples are able to marry in our state and have their marriages elsewhere respected here,” said Kyle Megrath, marriage coordinator for Hoosiers Unite for Marriage.
Pence opposes same-sex marriage, although he didn’t mention the issue on Tuesday. Instead, he cited other steps he said his administration has taken to strengthen the foundation of families: State agencies must draft a family impact statement to ensure that no rule or regulation would be a detriment to healthy families. Pence signed legislation this year that expands and improves adoption in the state. And Pence signed a bill to create a state-funded pre-kindergarten program for low-income children.
The administration also held the state’s first summit on infant mortality last year.
Pence called Tuesday’s family summit not just a conversation – but a conversation looking at the facts.
“Research has shown that a sure-fire way for a young person to avoid poverty is what is called the ‘success equation,’” Pence said. “If a person graduates from high school, goes to college or gets a job, and waits to have children until they are married, the chance of them actually living in poverty is so statistically insignificant that it almost doesn’t exist.”
He said no state in the country has used this equation as their economic poverty strategy.
“We want Indiana to lead the way and to show our young people, based upon time-honored facts and real data, the pathway out of poverty is to make the right choices, including waiting to have children until you’re married,” Pence said.
But Pence said the summit was not meant to diminish the work of single parents.
“Our single parents in Indiana are heroes,” Pence said. “Every single one of them.”
The governor said that one of the state’s most troubling statistics is the prevalence of childhood poverty within the state.
In Indiana, one out of five children lives in poverty, Pence said.
“That is unacceptable and we, in Indiana, are determined to bring the best practices and the best ideas to give our children the pathway out of poverty,” he said.
Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, said the public should not be misled by celebrities and the powerful, who sometimes have their messy lives play out in public while they still appear to remain privileged.
He added that, in recent years, studies have shown that marital happiness rates remain comparatively high and non-marital childbearing remains low.
Wilcox also talked about educational trends and how they affect marriage and the economy.
“Divorce is nearly three times more common amongst Americans who do not have a college degree,” Wilcox said.
He said, right now, the nation is in danger of separation where the highly educated and affluent enjoy strong, simple households and everyone else is left unstable and unhappy.
“This marriage divide is unacceptable,” Wilcox said.
He said that nearly 50 years ago, hardly any major class divides existed.
So, what exactly has caused the shift since then? Changes in the economy and moving from an industrial-based society to service and information, along with the effect it has had on jobs, could be a factor, Wilcox said.
Another reason could be cultural change, he said. Society has moved toward a culture that is more focused on being individuals and fulfilling personal desires.
And he said information shows boys that are raised in an intact family with a mom and dad are about half as likely to have a problem with the law. The research also showed that girls who are raised with a father in the picture are significantly less likely to become pregnant as a teenager.
Higher-educated Americans tend to discuss the idea of marriage and have more concerns about divorce than less-educated people, he said.
“A good education is a ticket to the American dream,” Wilcox said.