Fight poverty the conservative way

Third, Rubio thinks we have to address the familial contributors to poverty. A child raised by married parents is much more likely to escape poverty than one raised by a single mother. The day before his speech, Rubio told me he understands that there isn’t much the government can do to change social mores, but that he also thinks it’s important to make the interaction between family structure and economic success better known.

“A majority of it is a cultural thing we need to address as a society,” he said. “But I think government can be a catalyst for that conversation.” He says that he’s considering legislation in a few other areas where the government might be able to help, such as reducing the marriage penalties that are built into many anti-poverty programs. (When one poor person marries another, the household often then makes too much to qualify for assistance.)

Much of what Rubio is proposing concerns structural poverty, the kind that persists even when the economy is good. Some poverty, though, reflects the business cycle — and conservatives should take care not to make this cyclical poverty worse.