The Success Sequence…as Old as the Bible.

Ready for a revolutionary new approach to teach children from any nation how to live a prosperous life…

Brookings scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill call it the “success sequence”: that is…getting at least a high-school diploma, working, and then marrying before having children in that specific order. Following the success sequence is associated with a much lower chance of being poor and much better odds of realizing a prosperous life.

Tracking a cohort of young adults from their teenage years to early adulthood, sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and Wendy Wang recently tested how well the three success sequence “steps” work among the millennial generation. They found that 53% of millennials who had failed to complete all three steps were poor.

Teenage pregnancy out of wedlock is the number one predictor of poverty in most cultures. The same research indicated the probability of ending up poor was reduced by 60% for millennials who married before having children and by about 90% for millennials who followed all steps of the sequence compared with those who missed all three.

In regards to breaking out of the cycle of poverty, the success sequence significantly benefits young adults from low-income backgrounds. Among young adults who grew up in low-income families, those who followed all three steps had a poverty rate of only 6%. Eighty percent of those with lower-income backgrounds made it into middle or upper income brackets when they followed all three steps.

The message is simple. Some ways of entering adulthood are more prudent than others. And the message is as old as the oldest book on record, the Bible. Education? – Prov. 16:16 How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. Work? – Prov. 14:23 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Marriage? – Eccl. 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. Children after marriage? – Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all…

So for all the messaging of the importance of “love” and sexuality in culture today, let us be equally bold to speak about the practical, Biblical model that not only saves the soul from pain, but also can lead to economic prosperity as well.


Wang, W. March 2018. ‘The Sequence’ Is the Secret to SuccessGo to school, work, marry, have children. Why do we fail to convey this message to poor young people? WSJ. Ms. Wang is director of research at the Institute for Family Studies.

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