Yesterday I was privileged to hear Lamar Hunt Jr. speak at the Independence Rotary Club meeting. I expected to hear some promotion of the Missouri Mavericks hockey team and there was some of that. But he focused his remarks upon truth about success in life anywhere on this planet.

In my last column, I discussed the role of money in our lives. Today I am certainly not suggesting money is the common denominator of a successful life—lots of it will not even make one happy. But having some does seem to contribute to other more important aspects of a fulfilling life. Unfortunately, it is not politically correct to suggest these, but something tells me Mr. Hunt is not too concerned with form over substance.

He referred us to the work of sociologist Wendy R. Wang, Ph.D., the Director of Research for the Institute for Family Studies. She and W. Bradford Wilcox, Ph.D., co-authored a paper well worth your time, The Millennial Success Sequence. You may find it at  Her article, “The Sequence” is the Secret to Success, was published in the Wall Street Journal in late March of this year.

She writes of the family demographics of her native China. Everyone grows up with an emphasis on working hard to obtain a good education before even thinking of starting a family. In fact, she cites that in China, India, Japan, and South Korea, less than four percent of births are outside of wedlock.

The description of the success sequence she attributes to Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institute, not known as a bastion of conservative principles. The sequence is simple: get an education of at least a high school diploma, work for some period of time, then get married, and later have children.

Our Millennials are trying something different. In the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the statistics show that 55 percent of those recently between 28 and 34 years of age had at least one baby outside of the marriage relationship. Some 25 percent then married, but the other 30 percent were still unwed. In comparison, even the youngest Baby Boomers (born between 1957 and 1964) had married 75 percent of the time before bearing children at the same ages.

Does this make a difference? The Millennials who married first before having children were far more likely to have family incomes in the middle or highest third, by 86 percent to 14 percent. Only 53 percent of those having children before marriage were in the middle or upper third of family income.

This also applies to African American (76 percent) and Hispanic (81 percent) Millennials in comparison to 87 percent of whites. Even 71 percent of those who grew up in families with the lowest third of income had already moved up into the middle and upper third of family income by ages 28 to 34 if they had followed the sequence of success. Overall, 97 percent of those Millennials who followed the sequence were not in poverty.

This study obviously relies upon tremendous amounts of data, but it is not rocket science. It is common sense, or should I say that it used to be? Even a couple decades ago when I was still on the Independence Board of Education, some said it was absolutely unreasonable to think our youth could control themselves sexually enough to meet this test. Are we drinking different water than the Asian folks on the other side of the planet? We need to tell our children the truth about life and how they are making it extremely hard on themselves. We owe it to them.