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Marriage Promotion and U.S. Welfare Policy

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  1. Marriage Promotion and U.S. Welfare Policy Daniel T. Lichter Departments of Policy Analysis and Management and Sociology Cornell University Ithaca, New York, USA 14853 dtl28@cornell.edu

  2. Marriage is on the U.S. public policy agenda Concern that welfare encourages out-of-wedlock childbearing, discourages marriage, and creates new incentives for cohabitation and divorce

  3. Goals Why marriage matters in the United States What can we do about it? What’s the role of public policy Why reducing out-of-wedlock childbearing promotes marriage

  4. Why Marriage Matters Children do better raised by both biological parents Mental and physical health benefits to men and women Greater worker productivity, earnings, and wealth, and much lower poverty Savings for society- reduced costs of welfare, social services and justice system

  5. What Should Government Do?

  6. H.R. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 SEC. 401. PURPOSE (a) IN GENERAL- The purpose of this part is to increase the flexibility of States in operating a program designed to -- (1) provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; (2) end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits bypromoting job preparation, work, and marriage; (3) prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and (4)encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

  7. Key Provisions • Time limits on receipt • Work requirements • Family caps • $100 million bonus to states that reduce out-of-wedlock childbearing • Restrictions on welfare receipt by new immigrants

  8. What’s Happened to Welfare Caseloads and Families Since 1996?

  9. AFDC/TANF Caseload, 1962-2005 1.93 Source: Congressional Research Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/ofa/caseload/caseloadindex.htm#2005 (2002-2005), http://aspe.hhs.gov/HSP/indicators03/apa.htm#ttanf1( 1962-2001)

  10. Family Living Arrangements of U.S. Children, by Family Type Source: Lichter et al. (2005). Poverty Among Racial Minorities and Immigrants: Explaining Trends and Differentials. SSQ

  11. Administration of Children and FamiliesU.S. Department of Health and Human Services “Healthy Marriage Initiative” • Welfare reauthorization was passed February 2006 by U.S. Congress as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. • Provides $150 million each year (2006-2010) for marriage promotion and responsible fatherhood programs.

  12. “Our emphasis is on healthy marriages — not marriage for the sake of marriage, not marriage at any cost — but healthy marriages that provide a strong and stable environment for raising children. It is about helping couples who choose marriage for themselves gain access to the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain healthy marriages.” — Wade F. Horn, Ph.D. Assistant Secretary of the Administration for Children and Families

  13. What are some of the marriage promotion initiatives? • Public advertising campaigns on the value of healthy marriages and the skills needed to increase marital stability and the health of the marriage. • Education in high schools on the value of healthy marriages, healthy relationship skills, and budgeting. • Marriage education, marriage skills, and relationship skills programs, that may include parenting skills, financial management, conflict resolution, and job and career advancement, for expectant couples, both married and unmarried, as well as recent parents, both married and unmarried. • Pre-marital education and marriage skills training for engaged couples and for couples or individuals interested in marriage.

  14. continued . . . • Marriage enhancement and marriage skills training programs for married couples. • Divorce reduction programs that teach healthy relationship skills. • Marriage mentoring programs which 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 activity described above. • Conduct research on the benefits of healthy marriages and healthy marriage education. • Provide technical assistance to grantees who are implementing any of the above activities to help them succeed.

  15. AAUW recommendation It is misguided to fund pilot programs with no history of success that encourage women to enter marriage regardless of whether it is the safe and appropriate step for them. This program also represents an unnecessary government intrusion into the private sphere of the home and is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars. AAUW believes these funds would be better used by increasing opportunities for education and training that helps people earn a living wage and moves them into self-sufficiency. AAUW agrees with the president that we must reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births, which is why AAUW supports universal contraceptive coverage and comprehensive sex education to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

  16. My Argument: The best marriage promotion policy is one that reduces unwed childbearing. Why? • unwed mothers are less likely to marry • stay married, or • marry well, i.e.,economically-attractive men

  17. Do unwed mothers want to marry? And do they?

  18. Percent of Single Women Who Say They “Would Like to Marry” All Mothers All single women 72.3 69.4 Never married 77.0 74.6 Divorced 67.2 66.1 AFDC recipient 67.2 67.8 Source: Lichter, Batson, & Brown (March 2004), Social Service Review

  19. Do unwed mothers marry?

  20. Cumulative percentage of women ever marrying by Age: 20 25 30 35 40 All women 28.9 65.9 82.9 86.7 87.2

  21. Cumulative percentage of women ever marrying by Age: 20 25 30 35 40 All women 28.9 65.9 82.9 86.7 87.2 Women without NMB 30.0 67.5 84.2 87.9 88.3 Women with NMB 18.6 43.1 61.5 69.5 71.7

  22. Cumulative percentage of women ever marrying by Age: 20 25 30 35 40 All women 28.9 65.9 82.9 86.7 87.2 Women without NMB 30.0 67.5 84.2 87.9 88.3 Women with NMB 18.6 43.1 61.5 69.5 71.7 Women miscarried 26.6 55.8 75.2 81.4 82.5 A natural experiment

  23. Do unwed mothers stay married?

  24. Graefe & Lichter (May, 2007, Journal of Family Issues)

  25. Marital Status of Ever-Married Women at age 35-44 __ Unwed Mothers___ All women age 20+ age <20 First marriage 57.6 38.1 30.6 First divorce 16.5 28.5 27.5 Second marriage 17.9 17.2 23.9 Second divorce 4.1 5.8 10.4 Third marriage+ 3.1 7.7 6.8

  26. Did Welfare Reform Affect Family Outcomes?1995 & 2002 NSFG: Women 25-44 1995 2002 % nonmarital first birth 19% 27% Women had nonmarital first birth: % currently married 41% 42% % poor 30% 32% Women had marital first birth: % currently married 82% 82% % poor 8% 12%

  27. Do Unwed Mothers “Marry Well”? Does marriage life “at risk” unwed mothers out of poverty?

  28. “At risk” women grew up in a non-intact family and their mothers had low education or their mothers were never employed

  29. Marriage Is associated with lower poverty, but . . Ratio of Poverty Among Married Women to Otherwise Similar Never-Married Women Ever married .67 ________________________________ Currently married .37 Previously married 1.49 ___________________________________________ Net of differences in “at risk” family background, race and ethnicity, age, education, nonmarital birth status

  30. Will Marriage Help Eliminate Black-White Differences in Poverty? odds of poverty black women to white women Controlling for: 1. age & family background 4.7 2. (1) & nonmarital birth status 2.5 3. (2) & education 2.7 4. (3) & marriage 2.1 5. (4) & employment status 2.2

  31. At Risk Unwed Mothers Marry “Less Well” Unwed Married Mothers Mothers Husbands’ . . . . . . mean education 11.9 yrs 12.9 yrs . . . who are employed 82.3% 90.6% . . . with earnings LT 25,000 49.7% 35.6% “At risk” womengrew up in a non-intact family and their mothers had low education or their mothers were never employed

  32. What about children?

  33. Does marriage benefit children?Some approaches: • Marry off single mothers and assume that they have the same poverty rate as currently married • Marry off the cohabiting mothers, combine income, readjust poverty rates • Estimate income of men that women would marry

  34. Family Structure and Child Poverty, 1990 and 2000 Percent of Population Percent Poor 1990 2000 1990 2000 76.95 9.66 Married Couple 73.50 8.91 2.21 19.39 Male Head 2.93 16.95 13.03 41.78 Female Ever-Married Head 12.31 32.40 4.35 69.41 Female Never-Married Head 5.79 53.98 3.46 43.29 Cohabiting Couple (Official) 5.47 39.75 100.00 17.82 Total 100.00 16.33 Standardized by 1990 Family Structure 15.18 3.46 25.12 Cohabiting Couple (Adjusted) 5.47 20.12 100.00 17.19 Total (Adjusted) 100.00 15.26 Standardized by 1990 Family Structure 14.50 If cohabiting couples married, child poverty among their children is roughly one-half of official rate

  35. Family Structure and Child Poverty, 1990 and 2000 Percent of Population Percent Poor 1990 2000 1990 2000 76.95 9.66 Married Couple 73.50 8.91 2.21 19.39 Male Head 2.93 16.95 13.03 41.78 Female Ever-Married Head 12.31 32.40 4.35 69.41 Female Never-Married Head 5.79 53.98 3.46 43.29 Cohabiting Couple (Official) 5.47 39.75 100.00 17.82 Total 100.00 16.33 Standardized by 1990 Family Structure 15.18 3.46 25.12 Cohabiting Couple (Adjusted) 5.47 20.12 100.00 17.19 Total (Adjusted) 100.00 15.26 Standardized by 1990 Family Structure 14.50 Overall child poverty would decline by about 1 percentage point if cohabiting couples married

  36. Cohabiting Unions are Unstable

  37. Source: Lichter, Qian, Mellot (May 2006, Demography)

  38. Bottom Line • Unwed childbearing reduces the likelihood of marriage, staying married, and marrying economically-attractive men • Marriage promotion policies should begin by reducing unwed childbearing • Until we learn more about what works, states should adopt a slow approach to marriage promotion (while recognizingthat the “retreat from marriage” has many causes, including unwed childbearing – the “missing link”)

  39. Thank you

  40. Reducing the Risk Sex education for grades 9&10 (sexually inexperienced). 16 class periods. Goal: avoiding unprotected sexual intercourse (i.e., sexual risk-taking) through (1) practicing abstinence or (2) using contraception. Through experiential activities, participants learn to recognize and resist peer pressure, make decision, and negotiate safe sexual behaviors (based on various learning theories, such as cognitive behavioral theory). Encourage students to talk to their parents about abstinence and birth control.

  41. Safer Choices HIV/STI and teen pregnancy prevention curriculum. 20 sessions – multiethnic populations – over 2 years. Sexually experienced 9-10th graders. Provides knowledge (of contraception) and seeks to change attitudes about abstinence and condom use. Promotes communication among partners. Involves parents and school wide networks to reinforce new norms. Results show positive behavioral changes (e.g., reduced unprotected sex and more positive attitudes about condom use).