Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 18 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Daudi Okelo and Bl. Jildo Irwa
home iconVoices & Views
line break icon

Celebrate “the success sequence” this Thursday



Tom Hoopes - published on 11/19/18

There are 3 steps that practically guarantee a high degree of success. And this week is a great time to promote them.

Social scientists have discovered a powerful answer to poverty, crime, and brokenness. They call it “the sequence,” and it is perhaps the single most important proposal for the future of America.

Thanksgiving is the year’s most important holiday in one respect. Easter is more fundamental to the faith, Christmas is better at winning souls to Christ, and July 4 is even more patriotic — but Thanksgiving is a unique celebration of the most important reality on earth: the family.

It would be hard to overestimate the importance of the family today.

To demonstrate its power, social scientists coined the term “the success sequence” to describe how some Americans practically guarantee a high degree of success to themesleves — while others don’t.

The sequence goes like this: First, stay in school and earn a high school diploma, second, get married, and then — and only then — have children. That’s it.

Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox, professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has been studying the sequence for years. He and researcher Wendy Wang recently tracked a group of young adults to see if “the sequence” worked with millennials.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Wang said that in their study, “at ages 28 to 34, 53% of millennials who had failed to complete all three steps were poor. The poverty rate dropped to 31% among millennials who completed high school, 16% among those who had a diploma and a full-time job, and 3% for millennials who also put marriage before the baby carriage. Among childless and unmarried millennials 28 to 34 who followed the education and work steps, the poverty rate was 8%.”

They found the sequence worked regardless of race and economic background — and it actually served to lift low-income earners out of poverty.

“Eighty percent of those with lower-income backgrounds made it into middle- or upper-income brackets when they followed all three steps, versus only 44% for those who missed one or more steps.”

As powerful as the sequence might be, it has its detractors. Two University of Pennsylvania law professors wrote an op-ed in support of the sequence last year — and were bitterly attacked. Critics said that the sequence is class-based and biased.

Wilcox acknowledges the income disparity in those who follow the sequence. In fact, that is part of his point.

Those in upper income are far more likely to follow the sequence than those in lower incomes. Nearly 70 percemt of millennials ages 28 to 34 from low-income families missed one or more steps in the sequence — only 35 percent of upper-income millennials missed one.

But the point of talking about the sequence at all, he said, is to improve those numbers for all — especially the poor.

He also praises Michelle Obama’s recent book for upholding an important corollary to the sequence: Stay together once you’re married, no matter what it takes.


Read more:
Just stay married, darn it

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving — a perfect time to promote the sequence in your family.

The psychological benefits of Thanksgiving are enormous. In a world of superficial “virtual” connection, Thanksgiving puts us face to face with cousins, nephews, aunts, and grandparents — face to face. A ritual meal is a perfect way to root a family and its personal history into the history of the nation as a whole. They establish the family in our imaginations as a real thing that exists across time and space. 

And the Thanksgiving table — it is a perfect place to share the giant benefits of marriage and family — benefits far beyond what we imagine.

Read more:
On Thursdays, Our Family Gives Thanks In All Circumstances

Read more:
Could marriage be the answer to child poverty, or just part of the answer?


Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.