Natalie Portman aside, is Mike Huckabee right about single mothers?

On Facebook, Mike Huckabee says he didn't 'slam' or 'attack' single and pregnant Natalie Portman. His remarks, he said, were about the 'statistical reality' single moms face. How are his numbers?

Quad-City Times/Jeff Cook/AP
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee signs his book, 'A Simple Government' on Feb. 27, at Sam's Club in Davenport, Iowa.
Mark J. Terrill/AP
Natalie Portman accepts the Oscar for best performance by an actress in a leading role for 'Black Swan' at the 83rd Academy Awards on Feb. 27, in Los Angeles.

Mike Huckabee wants you to know that he wasn’t criticizing actress and single person Natalie Portman when he suggested in a media interview that her pregnancy was glamorizing the idea of having children outside of marriage.

“I did not ‘slam’ or ‘attack’ Natalie Portman, nor did I criticize the hardworking single mothers in our country,” Dr. Huckabee said Friday via a statement on his Facebook page.

Possible 2012 presidential candidate Huckabee went on to say that he had talked about Portman – who is engaged to her baby’s father – in the context of discussion of his new book, “A Simple Government.”

The first chapter of that book is titled “The Most Important Form of Government is a Father, Mother, and Children.”

“My comments were about the statistical reality that most single moms are very poor, under-educated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death,” said Huckabee on Facebook. “That’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that society often glorifies and glamorizes the idea of having children out of wedlock.”

Raising children with two parents is hard enough. Single mothers have an even tougher time of it, for sure. But is Huckabee right about the demographics of single motherdom there?

Well, there are a number of different ways of measuring that statistic, but it appears that most single moms are not, in fact, poor.

According to a Census Bureau study issued last November, 29.9 percent of families headed by a single mom have incomes below the poverty line. Of families headed by a single father, 16.9 percent live in poverty.

That’s a lot, but it is far from a majority.

However, the poverty rate for families headed by a married couple is only 5.8 percent, according to the same study. So it is true that single mothers are much more likely to live in poverty than married counterparts.

Perhaps Huckabee meant to refer to unwed teenage mothers, instead of single moms in general. Two-thirds of families begun by young unmarried moms are poor, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.