A new research report released today – a joint project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies – demonstrates definitively that the color of your skin does not have to result in a life of poverty in America today.

What if there was a relatively simple secret formula that put anyone’s chances of not living in poverty in the solid 90 percentile without needing a high paying job or college education? It’s called the “Success Sequence” and it nearly guarantees protection from poverty regardless of one’s socio-economic status, family, or racial background. Simply put, the Success Sequence requires three basic steps:

  1. Finish high school.
  2. Maintain a full-time job once you finish school.
  3. Get married before you have children and stay married.

This new report demonstrates how powerful the Success Sequence is for minority young adults seeking to establish productive lives.

  • First off, 97% of American Millennials who do these three things will not be poor as adults. 97 percent!

But there is even better news. Social scientists explain in this new report, “young adults from disadvantaged circumstances who follow the sequence are markedly more likely to overcome challenges and achieve economic success.” The numbers are quite encouraging.

  • Specifically, 96% of black and 97% of Hispanic Millennials who complete these three steps are not poor in their mid-30s.
  • 94% of Millennials who grew up in lower-income families and 95% who came of age in non-intact families will avoid poverty if they follow the Success Sequence.
  • And 95% of Millennials who follow the three steps of the Sequence but do not have a college degree will not be poor by their mid-30s.

But it is more than just avoiding basic poverty. Following the Success Sequence actually elevates the fortunes of minority Millennials beyond poverty. Specifically…

  • 80% of black and 86% of Hispanic young adults are found in the middle- or higher-income bracket if they simply do each of the three steps.
  • This is only slightly lower than the 91% of whites who do so.

The Success Sequence is a powerful economic equalizer.

We can better understand the positive outcomes in the report by comparing them to the results of not following the Success Sequence. A full 73% of black Millennials who did not achieve any of the three steps will live in poverty in their 30s. For Hispanic Millennials missing all three steps, 54% will live in poverty in their 30s compared to 40% of whites who fail to.

But the racial gap nearly closes for those of various groups who do achieve each of the three basic steps. These scholars explain, “For Millennials who follow all three steps, only 4% of blacks and 3% of Hispanics are poor by their mid-30s.” They add, “Stunningly, the racial gaps in poverty are almost closed” by following the Success Sequence.

How the Success Sequence Makes Up for Broken Families

We know the damage family breakdown causes children. It is well established in the social science literature. But this new research shows that when Millennials who grew up apart from both biological parents follow the three steps of the Success Sequence, a full 95% avoid poverty as adults!

College Is Not Essential to Avoid Poverty

For Millennials who accomplish the three steps, but do not graduate from college, a full 95% are not poor in their 30s and 82% of these non-college educated Success Sequencers live in the middle- to higher-income bracket in adulthood. For those who completed all three steps and attain a college degree, 96% are in the middle- or higher tier of income achievement in their mid-30s. That means that the basic three steps of the Success Sequence are remarkably powerful, rivaling the power of a college education.

Parents Overwhelmingly Favor Teaching Success Sequence in School

Parents who learn of the remarkable concentrated power of the Success Sequence for their children’s future, 76% of them support teaching the wisdom of these three steps in public schools.  This desire is also bipartisan, with more than 70% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans supporting it being taught in their children’s schools. Black and Hispanic parents also strongly support teaching it, 68 and 74% respectively. And finally, 72% of parents who didn’t follow the sequence themselves when younger support teaching it. Parents recognize good things for their children when they see it.

The Poison of Persistent Poverty

Living in persistent poverty is a primary driver of a host of additional problems in the lives of adults and their children. If young adults and their children can avoid the threat of poverty, they can live healthier lives by living in safer, more desirable neighborhoods, benefiting from improved healthcare, reduction in worry and anxiety, improved diet and nutrition, access to better education, and greater options for rest and recreation.

We tend to assume it is primarily employment and education that lifts people out of poverty. But this important new research on the Success Sequence’s effect on minority young adults shows the facts of the matter are more basic and simple than this.

  1. Finishing high school
  2. Maintaining a full-time job once you finish school
  3. Getting and staying married before you have children

…are like a magic formula in avoiding poverty. It is a message that every parent and community should teach to their youth if they really care about improving human well-being.

You can read the brief report in its entirety here.

Photo from Shutterstock.