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Should the US Government promote marriage among low-income unmarried parents?

Fri, October 27, 2006 | GEB 4.200C

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Today, 37% of children are born to unmarried parents. About half of these children's biological parents are living together at the time of the child's birth, and over 80% of them say that they would like to get married in the near future. Despite these high hopes, only 15% have married within a year following the child's birth and almost a third have separated. In response to these findings, the federal government has made the promotion of "healthy marriages" the center piece of its welfare reform reauthorization, and will spend $150 million per year for the next 5 years toward this end. An implicit goal of this legislation is to decrease poverty and to improve the well-being of children. Dr. Cynthia Osborne will illustrate the demographic trends that have prompted this policy response and discuss whether these marriage promotion efforts may be effective. Drawing on data from a new longitudinal birth cohort survey called the Fragile Families Survey, Dr. Osborne's research shows that the factors positively associated with marriage and relationship stability differ based on the parents' relationship status at the child's birth as well as their race and ethnicity. Thus, to be effective at all the marriage programs will need to vary according to the needs of the families they serve. In addition, there is little evidence that marriage following the birth of a child is associated with improved child well-being, and thus the focus of these programs should be on postponing childbearing until the couple is better prepared.

Sponsored by: Presented as part of the CWGS New Faculty Colloquium Series.

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