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Why is the federal government in the business of marriage “boosterism?”

by AirTalk®

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A PAIRS poster rests in front of Mark Deeken (L) and his wife Patty Deeken, of Warminster, Pennsylvania as they listen to a lecture by James McGlynn, not shown, during a Practical Skills for Extraordinary Relationships class, or PAIRS, April 14, 2004 in Spring House, Pennsylvania. U.S. President George W. Bush's proposed Healthy Marriage Initiative would provide at least $1.5 billion for training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain healthy marriages. William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

The $800 million in federal dollars spent on the Healthy Marriages Initiative has had little effect on national marriage or divorce trends, a new study has found. The money is intended to foster better relationships based on the idea that children raised in a marriage may be less likely to endure poverty or commit crimes.

The program’s ineffectiveness has reignited a debate about whether government should promote better marriages as a measure to prevent poverty. One in eight children raised in married households live below the poverty line, while five in ten raised by single mothers do.

Children raised in two-parent households also tend to have fewer behavioral problems. The logistics are fairly simple -- the likelihood that a married household has two full-time incomes is higher.

But is that a reason for the government to promote marriage as a way to combat poverty? Is marriage an appropriate focus for the government? Should the focus be on encouraging new marriages, or improving existing ones? Are there better ways to fight poverty?  


Wendy Manning, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director for the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She is the co-author of a study that looks at the effectiveness of the Healthy Marriage Initiative and lowering divorce rates and raising marriage rates.

Patty Howell, President of the   Healthy Relationships California, a statewide nonprofit organization that receives funding from the federal government to promote healthy relationships and marriage in California


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