Poverty rates are up along with record numbers of children born to unwed parents, a trend that illustrates America is headed in the wrong direction, says Jennifer Marshall, vice president of the Heritage Foundation
's Institute for Family, Community & Opportunity.
Appearing on Newsmax TV
's "America’s Forum," Marshall said the group's Index of Culture and Opportunity tracks 31 cultural indicators such as poverty and dependence, economics and education.
Story continues below video.
Note: Watch Newsmax TV now on DIRECTV Ch. 349 and DISH Ch. 223
Get Newsmax TV on your cable system – Click Here Now
"The purpose of the index is to get more of those wrong indicators on the wrong track going in the right direction," she said.
One of the categories headed in the wrong direction is children born out of wedlock, says Marshall.
"Today, four out of 10 children are born outside of marriage, and among blacks it's more than 70 percent," she said. "That is going to have a profound effect on a child's life, and they're going to be at much greater risk of challenges, whether it's educationally or in economic terms, much greater risk of being in poverty and so on."
On the other hand, abortion rates are down, something Marshall credits as a combination of "focused policy energy" and a "cultural effort."
"We've seen so many pro-life laws passed at the state level, and also . . . all the creative ways that churches and ministries and individuals are reaching out to help women who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy. These have brought about a reduction in the abortion rate."
Despite 80 federal programs, there is an increasing dependence on the assistance but no increase in self-sufficiency, she said.
"That is the ability of a family to maintain themselves, maintain their household, absent these forms of government welfare," says Marshall, who also said there is a cycle of welfare dependence that needs to be broken.
"We're going to have to break that cycle by focusing on two things, focusing on work and on marriage because often child poverty is associated with father absence and dependency on welfare is associated with single-parent homes," she said. "So rebuilding a culture of marriage, re-establishing work is highly important."
© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.