You need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty - finish high school, marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of the families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor.I read this in a book, and I thought it was Freakonomics, but couldn't find it in there on a quick skim through, so I have no idea what book in my bookshelf it came from. Whatever the book, these three things have always stuck with me, because I think it is so true.
I remembered this quote when reading My Milk Glass Heart's comments on what her father expected of her following my Teachers post below: don't get arrested, don't get pregnant, and get good grades. My parents expected the same of me. Looking back now, none of these requirements are the signs of an overcontrolling parent. They are pretty much common sense. That led to me remembering Mr. Galston's three things to avoid poverty. (And a small glimpse into the connections my mind makes. So, of course I have to discuss it right this minute. On my blog.)
It seems so easy, doesn't it? Finish high school? Don't get pregnant unless you are married? Don't get married until after 20? Done, done, and done. (Matter of fact, still not married!) And I'm not in poverty. So I fit the rule, as do all of my friends. I have no personal experience with teen pregnancy. There were a few girls who I graduated high school with who were pregnant our senior year, but I wasn't close with any of them, and now it's just bizarre to me to see their photos on Facebook of their senior year age child graduating from high school when I still don't have children. My sisters also managed to get past the age of 20 before getting pregnant (one still has no kids, my other sister had her first at 30), and shockingly, my brother also managed to wait to have children until he got married at 22. We all did it. They also all made it through high school and into at least some college. As I mentioned before, I have one sister who is an attorney like me, so she and I are the ones who made it the farthest formal educationwise. But, with or despite formal education (which doesn't particularly matter for some people), all of us kids have done just fine for ourselves.
My only real experience with teenage mothers is from television. (I guess maybe I live in a bubble.) But when I see 16 and 17 year olds having babies on television (in 16 & Pregnant, Teen Mom, or any of those types of candid reality shows), I get nothing but depressed. I remember being 16 or 17 years old. I had no worries other than trying to outdo M (my main academic rival, who ended up being Valedictorian, but I got the more prized Most Likely to Succeed vote) on tests or how I could get my dad to allow me to stay out past midnight with my boyfriend. (Generally that answer was a big fat no, because "nothing good happens after midnight." I've also found this bit of advice to be true, even into my 30s.) Babies are so much work. I just get sad for these girls because while their entire life isn't shot, they've made it so much harder upon themselves. You can't go away to college and live in the dorms when you have a baby, or pick up and move across the country for a new job, or go out and party all carefree. Babies are just so much work. So, it's easy to see why having one too early can lead to poverty. It's also easy to see how not graduating from high school can lead to poverty. It's also easy to see how getting married too soon can lead to poverty, since marriage can often lead to babies too early.
So, I like Galston's advice. I think we should plaster it all over the walls at every high school in the country.