NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oklahoma Experiments With Marriage Initiative

March 23, 2000

Should a state use federal welfare funds to promote marriage and discourage divorces? And should a state intervene in an area which is so personal? Oklahoma officials think so. Republican Gov. Frank Keating has pledged to reduce the state's divorce rate by one-third by 2010 -- and he is channeling a significant portion of federal welfare money into the effort.

  • Oklahoma is using $10 million of its federal grant for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families to finance part of its Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.
  • The money would be used for such initiatives as community-based marriage-strengthening programs conducted in cooperation with religious leaders, hiring a marriage expert for a one-year tenure at Oklahoma State University and setting up a Marriage Resource Center to guide couples to information and mentors to support their marriages.
  • It would also conduct a second Statewide Marriage Conference and train people to teach marriage-skills courses.
  • Finally, the state would develop better statistics on divorce trends and work with faith-based and secular charity groups to strengthen families.

Although others states have dedicated some welfare funds to reducing divorce, state officials say Oklahoma is the first to make such a strong financial commitment.

While some of those involved in the controversial "marriage movement" are applauding the initiative, the idea has attracted some share of skeptics and critics.

Source: Karen S. Peterson, "Oklahoma Weds Welfare Funds to Marriage," USA Today, March 23, 2000.


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