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Money, Not Marriage, More Likely to Affect Children's Well-Being

The Short of It

What do you think matters more to a child's happiness, living in a two-parent home or financial stability? According to a new study, money is more important and has a greater effect on a child's future than whether or not they live with two parents.

The Lowdown

According to U.S. Census data analyses, the marital status of a child's parents can influence his overall well-being, but the family's economic situation is even more important.

Financial instability is causing a decline in marriage rates in the United States, which is causing a rise in single-parent households.

"Limited economic prospects, in turn, tend to translate into lower marriage rates, higher rates of divorce and more cohabiting unions," writes Shannon Cavanagh, associate sociology professor at the University of Texas.

Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says the report doesn't tell the whole story. He told NBC News that no-fault divorce laws and a greater tolerance for single parenthood make families more fragile, and family fragility has its own independent effects on kids and adults.

The Upshot

Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Washington, says it's not that poor parents aren't trying to do the best for their children, but having financially stability is a powerful way to ensure that your children have everything they need to be successful and happy in life. Money can't buy happiness, but it allows parents to afford to provide their kids with more advantages, like better schools and extracurricular activities.

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