Low-income communities in industrialized societies share common characteristics such as unmarried cohabitation and female-headed households. The unresolved question about these unstable family structures is whether they are a cause or effect of poverty. Does government assistance ease economic stresses threatening family stability or undermine the stabilizing institution of marriage?


Sources of Resourcefulness research seeks to resolve this debate by offering a third way: unstable family structures are not detrimental for low-income households but are, instead, a source of flexibility and resourcefulness in poverty. Evidence presented in this research indicates that non-traditional family structures such as unmarried cohabitation and female-headed households are associated with greater wealth for households below the federal poverty line (which is why these patterns persist) but are associated with less wealth for other Americans (which is why these patterns are decried in the mainstream). This research therefore finds quantitative evidence for observations about poverty made by on-the-ground social workers and, in doing so, offers unique evidence explaining the behaviors of people living below the federal poverty line.