Washington, D.C.— Today, at a Joint Economic Committee (JEC) hearing on improving family stability, U.S. Congressman and JEC Vice Chair Don Beyer (D-VA) probed witnesses about the economic challenges facing families and what can be done at the federal level to support them.
“Some say that the stability of American families is just a matter of marriage and morals, but economic challenges are an overwhelming factor. We’re not returning to a ‘Leave-It-To-Beaver’ America, so it’s best that we focus on supporting families in whatever form they take,” Beyer said.
“Family-friendly policies such as affordable childcare, paid family and medical leave and the earned income tax credit are essential for families to survive and thrive,” Beyer continued. “We need to strengthen and streamline these policies so they better reflect the reality of families.”
Read Beyer’s written opening statement here. Excerpts from the statement are below.
Fact 1: Teen pregnancy is at a record low.
- “Between 1991 and 2015, the teen birth rate dropped by almost two-thirds, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act.”
Fact 2: Declining marriage rates largely are a result of economic challenges.
- “If you’re struggling financially, your wages haven’t gone up or you’ve lost your job—getting married is neither feasible nor practical.”
Fact 3: Americans want to get their economic footing before marriage.
- “Young Americans today want to get their economic footing before they get married. They correctly understand that they must get an education or training to achieve financial success. If they wait longer to get married, it’s not because they are anti-marriage. It’s because they are pragmatic.”
Fact 4: Traditional family structures are not the only path to success.
- “It’s true, that as people delay marriage, there are more babies born to unmarried parents. That holds across demographic groups and race. And it’s true in the United States and elsewhere.”
- “It’s also true that fathers today spend significantly more time caring for their children than in previous generations—in fact, three times the amount as in 1965.”
Fact 5: Real challenges facing families are economic.
- “Forty-four percent of workers earn just $18,000. And many are working two and three jobs.”
Fact 6: We should invest in proven programs.
- “Increase the minimum wage. Expand the EITC. Provide affordable, quality child care. Protect nutritional supports. Ensure workers have real bargaining power—to negotiate wage increases, predictable hours and better working conditions.”
Fact 7: We need “family-friendly” policies like paid leave
- “I’m pleased and encouraged that federal workers will be able to take 12 weeks paid leave to care for a newborn or adopted child. We should expand that same policy to workers in the private sector.”
Fact 8: Government policies need to catch up to the way Americans live.
- Finally, part of the challenge for families is that our government hasn’t kept pace with the way people are living their lives. For example, the share of multigenerational households is growing, but our policies haven’t changed.”
Congressman Beyer is currently serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital. In addition to his role as Vice Chair of the JEC, Beyer serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He represents the largest number of federal employees of any member of the House.