Poverty Prevention and Success Sequence for Millennials

Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) programs focus on preventing the well-documented factors that lead to poverty and offer practical and effective solutions for addressing this persistent societal concern. The SRA approach focuses on prevention, with solution-oriented approaches that address causes rather than effects.1


It Works Regardless of Race and Socioeconomic Privilege

Following this sequence overwhelming results in poverty prevention regardless of race and socioeconomic privilege. Only 9% of young men and women from lower-income families who follow the sequence are poor in their late twenties and early thirties compared to 31% who do not follow this sequence.3

The Success Sequence: A Positive Formula for Youth

If youth adopt these behaviors, in sequence, they risk only a 3% chance of living in poverty as adults: 2

  • Graduate
  • Get a full-time job
  • Wait until after marriage before having children

Marriage Matters

Young adults who marry before having kids are about twice as likely to reach the middle class or higher compared to those who have a baby first, and they’re about 60% less likely to end up poor as adults aged 28–
34. Marriage reduces millennials’ chances of being poor by providing financial benefits and more stability than single parents or cohabitating couples. Additionally, studies have shown that cohabitating couples are 3 times more likely to break up than were married parents.3

SRA Programs Encourage the Success Sequence Paradigm

Two federally funded SRA programs focus on empowering youth with skills that lead to achieving future goals, avoiding risk and achieving the benefits of the success sequence. Beginning early with skill-based programs that set high expectations, these programs increase the opportunity for healthier outcomes that can impact poverty prevention efforts. Unfortunately, to date, these programs have received minimal funding.

  • Title V Abstinence Education Program within the Welfare Reform Act of 1996
    • Preventing poverty by teaching self-regulation skills to youth and focusing on education, self-sufficiency and delaying sex until marriage.
  • FY2016 Omnibus Bill: Sexual Risk Avoidance (SRA) Program
    • “…teach the benefits associated with self-regulation, success sequencing for poverty prevention, healthy relationships, goal setting, and resisting sexual coercion, dating violence, and other youth risk behaviors such as underage drinking or illicit drug use without normalizing teen sexual activity.”

Reserving Sex for Marriage Improves Outcomes for Children and Adults

  • Bearing children within marriage is associated with a variety of improved physical, social, educational, and economic outcomes.
  • Regarding poverty, children living with never married mothers are 143% more likely to be poor than those living with married parents. 4


  1. Murray, C., (1984). Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980. NY: Basic Books.
  2. Wang, W., Wilcox, B. (2017). The Millennial Success Sequence. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute.
  3. Wang, W., Wilcox, B. (2017). Marriage Matters. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute.
  4. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). Welfare Indicators and Risk factors: 13th 
report to Congress, 2014. P.1-2, iii-2, 13, 14.

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