Senior Research Fellow
Domestic Policy Studies
Before the Sub-committee on Human Resources
Of the Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
My name is Robert Rector.I am a Senior Research Fellow at The
Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my
own, and should not be construed as representing any official
position of The Heritage Foundation.
The erosion of
marriage during the past four decades has had large-scale negative
effects on both children and adults: It lies at the heart of many
of the social problems with which the government currently
grapples. Nearly 80 percent of long term child poverty occurs in
broken or never-married families.Each year government spends over
$200 billion on means-tested aid to families with children; three
quarters of this aid flows to single parent families.Children
raised without a father in the home are more likely to experience:
emotional and behavioral problems, school failure; drug and alcohol
abuse, crime, and incarceration.The beneficial effects of marriage
on individuals and society are beyond reasonable dispute, and there
is a broad and growing consensus that government policy should
promote rather than discourage healthy marriage.
In response to these
trends, President George W. Bush has proposed-as part of welfare
reform reauthorization-the creation of a pilot program to promote
healthy and stable marriage. Funding for the program would be
small-scale: $300 million per year. This sum represents one penny
to promote healthy marriage for every five dollars government
currently spends to subsidize single parenthood. Moreover, this
small investment today could result in potentially great savings in
the future by reducing dependence on welfare and other social
The following are
important points about the healthy marriage initiative:
The program would be
focused on early intervention, helping young adult couples
establish stable and healthy relationships before the conception
and birth of a child.
Participation in the
program would be strictly voluntary.
Although there is
much chatter about an alleged shortage of marriageable males as a
barrier to marriage, in reality, nearly half of unmarried mothers
are living with the child's father at the time a child is born;
another 23 percent are in a stable romantic relationship with the
father. A shortage of "marriageable men" is not a major obstacle to
Over 95 percent of
unmarried fathers worked during the year of the child's birth;
their median annual earnings were $17,500.(This is higher than the
mothers' earnings.)Drug and alcohol abuse among these fathers is
Marriage can have a
dramatic effect in reducing child poverty.If poor single mothers
were married to the fathers of their children, nearly 70 percent
would be immediately lifted out of poverty.
Some argue that the
key to increasing marriage in low income communities is to provide
job training to increase the wages and employment of fathers.One
problem with this approach is that government job training programs
generally have a very limited impact on employment and
earnings.More importantly, data from the Fragile Families survey
show that increasing fathers' employment and earnings will have
only a marginal effect in increasing marriage. Improving attitudes
and relationship skills will have a far greater impact.
among the low income couples who would be targeted for the healthy
marriage initiative is very rare.In fact, only 2 percent experience
domestic violence.Critics of the healthy marriage initiative often
cite statistics showing that a high percent of middle-aged welfare
mothers have suffered domestic violence at some point in the
past.These figures are irrelevant for two reasons.First, the
healthy marriage initiative will focus on younger women around the
time of a child's birth, not older mothers with a long history of
welfare dependence.The domestic violence rates are very different
for these two groups.Second, the fact a woman has experienced
domestic violence in the past does not mean she is experiencing
violence in a current relationship, or that most prior
relationships have involved violence.
violence occurs in cohabitation not marriage; helping couples move
from unstable cohabiting relationships into healthy marriage should
reduce domestic violence.
Over 100 separate
evaluations show that marriage skill education programs, of the
sort that would be used in the healthy marriage initiative, are
effective in reducing strife, improving communications skills,
increasing couple stability and enhancing marital happiness.
Some argue that the
healthy marriage initiative should be broadened to include funding
for other activities such as daycare, job training, and birth
control.The problem is that government already spends massively on
these other activities: over $20 billion annually on daycare; $6.2
billion on job training and $1.7 billion on birth control.To allow
healthy marriage funds to be diverted to these amply funded
activities would dissipate the funding and ensure that relatively
little was spent to actually strengthening marriage.
Some argue that the government should not "interfere" in private
decisions concerning marriage.This argument is faulty on several
counts.First, participation in the healthy marriage program would
be completely voluntary; opposing the marriage initiative on
grounds of "non-interference" really means denying low income
couples access to information and training that they actively want,
but is not available in low income communities.Second, the
means-tested welfare system already "intervenes" against marriage
by providing substantial financial penalties when low income
couples do marry.
Third, the government spends over $150 billion in subsidies to
single parents each year. Much of this expenditure would have been
avoided if the mothers were married to the fathers of their
children. To insist that the government has an obligation to
support single parents-and to mitigate the damage that results from
the erosion of marriage-but should do nothing to strengthen
marriage itself is myopic. It is like arguing that the government
should pay to sustain polio victims in iron lung machines but
should not pay for the vaccine to prevent polio in the first
The Importance of
one-third of all American children are born outside marriage.
That's one out-of-wedlock birth every 35 seconds. Of those born
inside marriage, a great many children will experience their
parents' divorce before they reach age 18.More than half of the
children in the United States will spend all or part of their
childhood in never-formed or broken families.
The collapse of
marriage is the principal cause of child poverty in the United
States. Children raised by never-married mothers are seven times
more likely to live in poverty than children raised by their
biological parents in intact marriages. Overall, approximately 80
percent of long-term child poverty in the United States occurs
among children from broken or never-formed families.
It is often argued that strengthening marriage would have little
impact on child poverty because absent fathers earn too little.
This is not true: The typical non-married father earns $17,500 per
year at the time his child is born. Some 70 percent of poor single
mothers would be lifted out of poverty if they were married to
their children's father. According to data from the Princeton
Fragile Families and Child Well-being Survey-a well-known survey of
couples who are unmarried at the time of a child's birth. If the
mothers remain single and do not marry the fathers of their
children, some 55 percent will be poor. However, if the mothers
married the fathers, the poverty rate would drop to 17 percent.
(This analysis is based on the fathers' actual earnings in the year
before the child's birth.)
The growth of single-parent families has had an enormous impact on
government. The welfare system for children is overwhelmingly a
subsidy system for single-parent families. Some three-quarters of
the aid to children-given through programs such as food stamps,
Medicaid, public housing, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
(TANF), and the Earned Income Tax Credit-goes to single-parent
families. Each year, government spends over $150 billion in
means-tested welfare aid for single parents.
Growing up without a father in the home has harmful long-term
effects on children. Compared with similar children from intact
families, children raised in single-parent homes are more likely to
become involved in crime, to have emotional and behavioral
problems, to fail in school, to abuse drugs, and to end up on
welfare as adults.
Finally, marriage also brings benefits to adults. Extensive
research shows that married adults are happier, are more productive
on the job, earn more, have better physical and mental health, and
live longer than their unmarried counterparts. Marriage also brings
safety to women: Mothers who have married are half has likely to
suffer from domestic violence as are never-married mothers.
overwhelming evidence of the benefits of marriage to families and
society, the sad fact is that, for more than four decades, the
welfare system has penalized and discouraged marriage. The U.S.
welfare system is currently composed of more than 70 means-tested
aid programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care, and
social services to low-income persons. Each year, over $200 billion
flows through this system to families with children. While it is
widely accepted that the welfare system is biased against marriage,
relatively few understand how this bias operates. Many erroneously
believe that welfare programs have eligibility criteria that
directly exclude married couples. This is not true.
programs do penalize marriage and reward single parenthood because
of the inherent design of all means-tested programs. In a
means-tested program, benefits are reduced as non-welfare income
rises. Thus, under any means-tested system, a mother will receive
greater benefits if she remains single than she would if she were
married to a working husband. Welfare not only serves as a
substitute for a husband, but it actually penalizes marriage
because a low-income couple will experience a significant drop in
combined income if they marry.
For example: A
typical single mother on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
receives a combined welfare package of various means-tested aid
benefits worth about $14,000 per year. Suppose the father of her
children has a low-wage job paying $16,000 per year. If the mother
and father remain unmarried, they will have a combined income of
$30,000 ($14,000 from welfare and $16,000 from earnings). However,
if the couple marries, the father's earnings will be counted
against the mother's welfare eligibility. Welfare benefits will be
eliminated (or cut dramatically), and the couple's combined income
will fall substantially. Thus, means-tested welfare programs do not
penalize marriage per se but, instead, implicitly penalize marriage
to an employed man with earnings. The practical effect is to
significantly discourage marriage among low-income couples.
discrimination is inherent in all means-tested aid programs,
including TANF, food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, and the
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food program. The only way to
eliminate the anti-marriage bias from welfare entirely would be to
make all mothers eligible for these programs regardless of whether
they are married and regardless of their husbands' earnings.
Structured in this way, the welfare system would be
marriage-neutral: It would neither reward nor penalize
change, however, would cost tens of billions of dollars. A more
feasible strategy would be to experiment by selectively reducing
welfare's anti-marriage incentives to determine which penalties
have the biggest behavioral impact. This approach is incorporated
in the President's Healthy Marriage Initiative.
Initiative to Promote Healthy Marriage
In recognition of the
widespread benefits of marriage to individuals and society, the
federal welfare reform legislation enacted in 1996 set forth clear
goals: to increase the number of two-parent families and to reduce
out-of-wedlock childbearing. Regrettably, in the years since this
reform, most states have done very little to advance these
objectives directly. Out of more than $100 billion in federal TANF
funds disbursed over the past seven years, only about $20 million-a
miniscule 0.02 percent-has been spent on promoting marriage.
Recognizing this shortcoming, President Bush has sought to meet the
original goals of welfare reform by proposing a new model program
to promote healthy marriage as a part of welfare reauthorization.
The proposed program would seek to increase healthy marriage by
providing individuals and couples with:
Accurate information on the value of marriage in the lives of men,
women, and children;
Marriage-skills education that will
enable couples to reduce conflict and increase the happiness and
longevity of their relationship; and
Experimental reductions in the financial penalties against marriage
that are currently contained in all federal welfare programs.
All participation in the President's marriage program would be
voluntary. The initiative would utilize existing marriage-skills
education programs that have proven effective in decreasing
conflict and increasing happiness and stability among couples.
These programs have also been shown to be effective in reducing
The pro-marriage initiative would not merely seek to increase
marriage rates among target couples, but also would provide ongoing
support to help at-risk couples maintain healthy marriages over
The plan would not create government bureaucracies to provide
marriage training. Instead, the government would contract with
private organizations that have successful track records in
providing marriage-skills education.
Timing and Targeting of Services
Healthy Marriage Initiative is often characterized as seeking to
increase marriage among welfare (TANF) recipients. This is somewhat
inaccurate. Most welfare mothers have poor relationships with their
children's father: In many cases, the relationship disintegrated
long ago. Attempting to promote healthy marriage in these
situations is a bit like trying to glue Humpty-Dumpty together
after he has fallen off the wall. Such a program would be certain
to fail.By contrast, a well-designed marriage initiative would
target women and men earlier in their lives when attitudes and
relationships were initially being formed. It would also seek to
strengthen existing marriages to reduce divorce.
The primary focus of marriage programs would be preventative-not
reparative. The programs would seek to prevent the isolation and
poverty of welfare mothers by intervening at an early point before
a pattern of broken relationships and welfare dependence had
emerged. By fostering better life decisions and stronger
relationship skills, marriage programs can increase child
well-being and adult happiness, and reduce child poverty and
A serious pro-marriage initiative would target couples and
individuals and couples ina variety of venues.The marriage
initiative would include:
Education about the value of marriage and life-skills
planning for high school students who are at risk of out-of-wedlock
Pre-marital counseling programs
for engaged couples and marriage enrichment programs for married
couples. These programs have potential to reduce future divorce.
While it would not be necessary for the government to broadly
subsidize middle-class use of these programs, government funds
should be used as a catalyst to promote awareness and make such
programs more widely available;
Marriage and relationship skills training for young
unmarried adults prior to achild's conception; and,
Marriage skills training for
low-income married couples at the time of a child's birth.
Childbirth places considerable strain on relationships and this can
lead to divorce. It is possible that lower-income married couples
could benefit from pro-marriage services as much or more than
Much of the discussion of marriage promotion has focused on
unmarried couples at the "magic moment" of a child's birth.These
discussions use data from the Fragile Families survey.While
services should be offered at the magic moment of birth, it is now
clear that this is not the optimal point of intervention.Waiting
until after a child is born to figure out whether you want to make
a permanent commitment to your partner is a bad strategy.Moreover,
many unmarried, new parents are poorly prepared for either marriage
There is widespread agreement, among both liberals and
conservatives, that the best point of intervention with these young
couples would have been prior to their child's conception, rather
than after the child's birth. However, while the government has
virtually guaranteed access to low-income mothers at the time of
birth, contact with young, low-income adults at an earlier stage is
commonly thought to be difficult or impossible. In fact, this
perception may be erroneous. The federal government currently funds
some 4,700 birth control clinics through the Title X program. These
clinics provide birth control to 4.4 million low-income persons
each year-most of which are young adult women. Many of the
clientele of these clinics will become members of the "fragile
families" of the future.
In addition to birth control, it should be relatively simple for
these clinics to offer voluntary referrals to programs providing
life-planning, marriage, and relationship training, to those who
are interested.The goal of such programs would be to encourage
young adult women to delay childbirth and to develop stable marital
relationships before bringing children into the world. The
potential for outreach through the Title X clinics may actually be
greater than through maternity wards. Expanding healthy marriage
services to cover the time prior to a child's conception may
considerably increase the effectiveness of future programs.
At present, Title X clinics do a poor job in preventing
out-of-wedlock childbearing.In part, this is because these clinics
offer free birth control but do not provide life skill training
that would help young adult men and women prepare for decisions
concerningchildbirth and child-rearing more wisely. Offering
referrals to a broader range of services at Title X clinics could
greatly increase their effectiveness.
Healthy Marriage Initiative has been included in the Personal
Responsibility, Work, and Family Promotion Act of 2003 (H.R. 4)
that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2002
and again in February 2003. The bill creates a small funding set
aside in the TANF program for healthy marriage promotion.Funds
could be used for a specified set of activities consistent with the
overarching strategy of promoting healthy marriage. These
activities would include:
Public advertising campaigns on the value of marriage and the
skills needed to increase marital stability and health;
Education in high schools about the
value of marriage, relationship skills, and budgeting;
Marriage education, marriage-skills instruction, and
relationship-skills programs-which may include parenting skills,
financial management, conflict resolution, and job and career
advancement for non-married pregnant women and non-married
Pre-marital education and
marriage-skills training for engaged couples and for couples or
individuals interested in marriage;
marriage-skills training for married couples;
Divorce-reduction programs that teach
Marriage mentoring programs that use
married couples as role models and mentors in at-risk communities;
Programs to reduce the disincentives to
marriage in means-tested aid programs, if offered in conjunction
with any of the above activities.
Should the Healthy Marriage Program Be
Much of the debate about marriage-strengthening will center on this
list of allowable uses of the marriage funds. Opponents of the
President's initiative will seek to broaden the list to include
activities that have little or no link to marriage. The effort to
broaden the program to include standard government services such as
job training, day care, and contraceptive promotion (all of which
are already amply funded through other programs) would dissipate
the limited funds available and render the program meaningless.
Criticisms of the
The President's Healthy Marriage Initiative has been criticized on
a number of grounds. Each of these criticisms is inaccurate.
be forced to participate in the program.
Critics charge that
welfare mothers would be forced to participate in marriage
education. In fact, all participation would be voluntary. Services
would be provided only to individuals or couples interested in
The program will
increase domestic violence.
Critics charge that the program
would increase domestic violence by coercing or encouraging women
to remain in dangerous relationships. In fact, marriage and
relationship-skills training has been shown to reduce, not
increase, domestic violence.
Such programs help women steer clear of dangerous and
Moreover, domestic violence is less widespread among low-income
couples than is generally assumed. For example, three-quarters of
non-married mothers are romantically involved with the child's
father at the time of the non-marital birth: Only 2 percent of
these women have experienced domestic violence in their
relationship with the father.
In general, domestic violence is more common in cohabiting
relationships than in marriage: Never-married mothers, for example,
are twice as likely to experience domestic violence than are
mothers who have married.
A very common statistic used to oppose the healthy marriage
initiative is that some 60 percent of welfare mothers have
experienced domestic violence.This figure is based on surveys of
older welfare mothers and measures whether the woman has ever
experienced domestic violence at any time in the past. By the time
they reach their early thirties, single mothers on welfare may have
been involved in ten or more intimate relationships.The fact that
some 60 percent of these women have experienced domestic violence
at least once is not surprising; however, this figure does not
suggest that most TANF mothers are experiencing violence in their
current relationships or that most of their prior relationships
have involved violence.Moreover, as I have stated, older welfare
mothers are nota principle target group of the healthy marriage
initiative.The initiative would be a preventive strategy focused on
younger unmarried couples; as noted, the domestic violence rate
among these couples is close to zero.
programs are ineffective or unproven.
Critics charge that
marriage-skills programs are ineffective. The facts show exactly
the opposite: Over 100 separate evaluations of marriage training
programs demonstrate that these programs can reduce strife, improve
communications skills, increase stability, and enhance marital
The program will
bribe couples to marry. Critics charge that the marriage
program will bribe low-income women to marry unwisely. This is not
true. As noted, all means-tested welfare programs such as TANF,
food stamps, and public housing contain significant financial
penalties against marriage. The marriage program would experiment
with selectively reducing these penalties against marriage.
The program is too
The President proposed spending $300 million per
year on his model marriage program ($200 million in federal funds
and $100 million in state funds). This sum represents one penny
spent to promote healthy marriage for every five dollars spent to
subsidize single parenthood.
This small investment would also help to avert future dependence on
The public opposes
. Critics claim that the public opposes
programs to strengthen marriage. In fact, the state of Oklahoma has
operated a marriage program similar to the President's proposal for
several years. Most Oklahomans are familiar with this program; 85
percent of the state's residents support the program, and only 15
percent oppose it.
are not interested in marriage.
Critics charge that low-income
women are not interested in marriage and marriage-skills training.
However, at the time of their child's birth, more than 75 percent
of non-married mothers say they are interested in marrying their
child's father. In Oklahoma, 72 percent of women who have received
welfare say that they are interested in receiving marriage-skills
have histories of abuse that will make marriage
Some have argued that low-income women
are likely to have experienced sexual abuse or violence in their
childhoods and that this abuse makes in far more difficult for them
to form stable marriages as adult.
who have suffered childhood abuse may be more likely to move
through a long series of unstable and transitory cohabitions as
adults. In reality, relatively few of the women who would be
targeted by the healthy marriage initiative will have experienced
childhood abuse; however, to the extent they have suffered prior
abuse, it would be important to offer services that may help them
improve current relationships rather than simply abandoning them to
a persistent pattern of relationship failure.
The shortage of
"marriageable men" makes marriage unlikely for most low-income
Critics argue that marriage is impractical in low-income
communities because men earn too little to be attractive spouses.
This is not true. As noted, nearly three-quarters of non-married
mothers are cohabiting with, or are romantically involved with, the
child's father at the time of the baby's birth. The median income
of these non-married fathers is $17,500 per year. Some 70 percent
of poor single mothers would be lifted out of poverty if they
married the father of their children.
wages through job training is the key to increasing marriage.
Some argue that the key to getting low-income parents to marry is
to raise the father's wages. This notion is inaccurate for several
, unmarried fathers already earn, on average,
$17,500 per year at the time of their child's birth. Second
data from the Fragile Families Survey show that male wage rates
have very little to do with whether or not an unmarried father
marries the mother of his child. Instead, the most important
factors in determining whether or not couples marry after a child's
birth are the couples' attitudes about marriage and their
These are the precise attitudes and behaviors that would be
targeted for change in the President's Healthy Marriage
, the federal government already operates seven
separate job-training programs and spends over $6.2 billion per
year on job training.
Since the beginning of the War on Poverty, overall spending on job
training has exceeded $257 billion.
This spending has had no apparent effect on increasing marriage in
the past: There is no reason to believe it would do so in the
, most government training programs are
ineffective in raising wage rates. For example, a large-scale
evaluation of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) showed that
the program raised the hourly wage rates of female trainees by only
3.4 percent and those of male trainees by zero.Finally
, under H.R. 4, job training
may be provided, if needed, to individuals participating in
marriage-skills and marriage-enhancement programs. However, any job
training must be linked to marriage-skills training. To add job
training as a stand-alone spending category within a "marriage"
funding stream would cripple any future marriage program by
diverting substantial funds into traditional job-training
activities that have little to do with marriage.
marriage at an early age is counterproductive. The age at which
women give birth out of wedlock is often underestimated. The issues
of out-of-wedlock childbearing and teen pregnancy are generally
confused: They are not the same. Most women who give birth outside
marriage are in their early twenties. Only 10 percent of
out-of-wedlock births occur to girls under age 18; 75 percent occur
to women who are age 20 and older.
The focus of the Healthy Marriage Initiative would be on
encouraging couples to form stable, committed relationships and to
marry before pregnancy and childbirth occur. In many cases, this
would involve delaying childbearing until couples were older and
more mature. Thus, the goals of promoting healthy marriage and of
postponing childbearing to a mature age are harmonious and mutually
supportive. However, simply encouraging a delay in childbearing
without increasing the incidence of healthy marriage would have
only marginal benefits and would not be wise policy.
fund more pregnancy-prevention and contraceptive programs rather
than marriage promotion.
Some urge that marriage promotion
funds should be diverted to contraceptive programs on the grounds
that, once women have had children out of wedlock, they are less
likely to marry in the future. But the government already spends
over $1.7 billion per year on pregnancy prevention and
contraceptive promotion through programs such as Medicaid, TANF,
Adolescent Sexual Health, and Title X.
Overall, current funding for contraception/pregnancy-prevention
dwarfs the proposed funding for marriage promotion. Diverting
limited marriage funds to even more contraceptive programs would
clearly cripple any marriage initiative.
However, as noted, the President’s Healthy Marriage Initiative would promote the goal of preventing non-marital pregnancy in another broad sense. Marriage programs would encourage women to enter healthy marriages before becoming pregnant. In many cases, this would involve encouraging women to avoid pregnancy until they become more mature and more capable of sustaining a viable, healthy relationship. However, this approach would differ greatly from simply handing out contraceptives.
- Promoting marriage is none of the government’s business. There are some who argue that, while marriage is a fine institution, the decision to marry or not to marry is a private decision in which the government should not be involved. This argument is based on a misunderstanding of the government’s current involvement in the issue of single-parenthood, as well a misunderstanding of the President’s Healthy Marriage Initiative.
First, the government is already massively involved when marriages either fail to form or break apart. Each year, the government spends over $150 billion in subsidies to single parents. Much of this expenditure would have been avoided if the mothers were married to the fathers of their children. This cost represents government efforts to pick up the pieces and contain the damage when marriage fails. To insist that the government has an obligation to support single parents—and to control the damage that results from the erosion of marriage—but should do nothing to strengthen marriage itself is myopic. It is like arguing that the government should pay to sustain polio victims in iron lung machines but should not pay for the vaccine to prevent polio in the first place.
Second, the government is already heavily (and counterproductively) involved in individual marriage decisions, given that government welfare policies discourage marriage, by penalizing low-income couples who do marry and by rewarding those who do not. The President’s Healthy Marriage Initiative would take the first steps to reduce these anti-marriage penalties.
Third, under the President’s initiative, the government would not “intrude” into private matters concerning marriage, since all participation in the marriage promotion program would be voluntary. Nearly all Americans believe in the institution of marriage and hope for happy and long-lasting marriages for themselves and their children. Very few wish for a life marked by a series of acrimonious and broken relationships. The President’s program would offer services to couples seeking to improve the quality of their relationships. It would provide couples seeking healthy and enduring marriages with skills and training to help them to achieve that goal. To refuse services and training to low-income couples who are actively seeking to improve their relationships because “marriage is none of the government’s business” is both cruel and shortsighted.
Finally, the government has a long-established interest in improving the well-being of children. For instance, the government funds Head Start because the program will ostensibly increase the ability of disadvantaged children to grow up to become happy and productive members of society. It is clear that healthy marriage has substantial, long-term, positive effects on children’s development: Conversely, the absence of a father or the presence of strife within a home both have harmful effects on children. If government has a legitimate role in seeking to improve child wellbeing through programs such as Head Start, it has a far more significant role in assisting children by fostering healthy marriage within society.
More than 40 years ago, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan—at that time, a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s White House staff—wrote poignantly of the social ills stemming from the decline of marriage in the black community. Since that time, the dramatic erosion of marriage has afflicted the white community as well. Today, the social and economic ills fostered by marital collapse have exceeded Senator Moynihan’s worst expectations.
In response, President Bush has developed the Healthy Marriage Initiative: the first positive step toward strengthening the institution of marriage since the Moynihan report four decades ago. The proposal represents a strategy to increase healthy marriage—carefully crafted on the basis of all existing research on the topic of promoting and strengthening marriage.
There is now broad bipartisan recognition that healthy marriage is a natural protective institution that, in most cases, promotes the well-being of men, women, and children: It is the foundation of a healthy society. Yet, for decades, government policy has remained indifferent or hostile to marriage. Government programs sought merely to pick up the pieces as marriages failed or—worse—actively undermined marriage. President Bush seeks to change this policy of indifference and hostility. There is no group that will gain more from this change than low-income single women, most of whom hope for a happy, healthy marriage in their future. President Bush seeks to provide young couples with the knowledge and skills to accomplish their dreams. The Congress would be wise to affirm their support for marriage by passing welfare reform reauthorization and enacting the President’s Healthy Marriage Initiative.
Robert Rector has served on an HHS grant review panel for marriage programs; he also has served as a consultant on marriage, poverty, welfare and abstinence education for Mathematica Policy Research Inc. These activities involved about six days of work over the last three years and involved payments on a per diem basis with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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