If you want to avoid poverty and join the middle class in the United States, you need to do three things:
(1) Complete high school (at a minimum),
(2) work full time and
(3) marry before you have children.
If you do all three, your chances of being poor fall from 12 percent to 2 percent, and your chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56 to 74 percent.
Source: Isabel V. Sawhill and Ron Haskins, “Five Myths About Our Land of Opportunity,” Brookings Institute, November 1, 2009.