Is DINK the True Success Sequence?

According to Brookings, the Success Sequence for avoiding poverty is roughly: have a high school education, a full-time job, and have children while you are married and after you are 21 years of age. As I discussed last week, their approach to demonstrating this is fairly misleading and full-time work is carrying almost all of the weight of the low-poverty conclusion.

Nonetheless, I am somewhat intrigued by the approach of the Brookings' Success Sequence analysis. Under this approach, the way to identify anti-poverty success is to basically list a combination of conditions that are associated with low poverty in our society right now. Naturally, this approach makes me wonder: are there other Success Sequences out there that outperform the one Brookings has established? Some playing around with the ASEC leads me to believe that the answer is yes and that a leading competitor for the best Success Sequence is the DINK (Double Income No Kids) life.

DINK Poverty

The DINK Success Sequence, as I define it, is way simpler than the Brookings' Success Sequence. It goes like this:

  1. Live in a family with two and only two adults (ages 25-64).
  2. Make sure both adults have personal incomes greater than $0.

In the 2013 ASEC, there were 27.7 million people who followed the DINK Success Sequence. Of those people, just 781,000 were in poverty, leading to a poverty rate of 2.8%.

Notice that I get this low poverty rate without checking anyone's education, checking to see if anyone has a full time job, or indeed checking to see if anyone even has income from work (personal income could come from anywhere). Outside of conditions that directly mention pay, I don't think you'll find a Success Sequence that is both as simple and efficient as the DINK sequence.

Why Don't They Advocate DINK?

Given the extreme success of the DINK lifestyle strategy, it seems quite perplexing that a place like Brookings doesn't promote it. Even aside from DINK in particular, it's clear at all times that having children is a horrible idea if you are trying to keep your poverty risk low in our society as it is currently constructed. After all, children are really expensive and don't even work. Advocating for people to not have kids seems like an anti-poverty no-brainer.

The reason Brookings doesn't go down this path is, I suspect, because they think raising a family is an important part of life for most people. Just as people who want to increase GDP/capita don't advocate killing everyone who is not an able-bodied, working-age adult (which would double GDP per capita overnight), Brookings can't bring itself to actively support childlessness as a way to cut poverty risk.

The hesitation of Brookings on this point is perfectly fine, of course. I even share that doubt. But, to me, if you think raising a family is that important to the good life, then you should push for policy that makes it a lot easier and comfortable to do so. You should be trying to put in place a generous family welfare state like those that exist in our peer nations. Instead, Brookings seems more interested in conducting misleading data-cutting projects that are aimed primarily at explaining away our country's remarkably high poverty as caused by bad people rather than bad institutions.

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