Blog   Education | Marriage & Parenting

“Success Sequence” Reinforces Benefits of Traditional Principles

Wedding rings on a bible

I’m a Zillennial. This isn’t an official generation, but I fall right on the cusp of Millennials and Gen Z, and social media has created this term for people around my age who don’t identify with just one generation. For example, I clearly remember VHS tapes, but most 90s pop references are lost on me. Regardless, both generations have tried to revolt against the “traditional” way of going about life, opting instead to tailor it to what they think works best for them. Whether it’s the rise of working remotely, expanding education options so that you can learn what you want when you want, or creating a whole new career path in the social media realm known as being an “influencer,” these generations have bucked tradition in a lot of ways.

While some of these trends have been beneficial (I’m personally a fan of working remotely), not all of these have been good for our society. Many of the values that the parents of these two generations have tried to pass on have instead been tossed to the wayside. Principles like the importance of getting a good education, waiting until marriage to have children, or getting a good job have been ignored more and more.

While the long-lasting impacts of these lifestyle changes are yet to be seen, researchers Wendy Wang and Brad Wilcox have confirmed that these “traditional” values are actually beneficial for individuals, giving them the information to build what they’ve termed the “Success Sequence.”

The Success Sequence

The report from Wang and Wilcox states that Millennials are most likely to live an economically successful life and avoid poverty if they follow these three steps:

  1. Graduate from high school or get a GED by their mid-twenties;
  2. Work full time;
  3. Marry before having children.

This sounds an awful lot like what my generation was told growing up. Here’s the evidence for their model:

  • 97% of Millennials who follow this sequence are not poor when they reach adulthood. The link remains strong when this cohort of young Americans reaches their mid-30s.
  • 94% of young adults from lower-income families who followed the success sequence are not poor.
  • 95% of young adults from non-intact families who followed the success sequence are not poor.
  • The poverty gap between college and high school graduates is small among those who followed the success sequence.

Correcting for Disadvantages

What is interesting is that this works across all of the variables that are often cited as reasons for people to be economically disadvantaged, including race, gender, parents’ low economic status, not receiving a college degree, and being from a non-intact family. The poverty rate for adults between the ages of 32 and 38 after completing each step is well under 10%, even for those experiencing the disadvantages mentioned above.

The Bottom Line

You can learn more about the Success Sequence in the video below or by listening to this “Family Policy Matters” podcast interview with Brad Wilcox, but ultimately, I think we all need to start paying more attention when our parents give us advice, even if it sounds too “traditional.”


Receive Our Legislative Alerts