NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 3, 2006

The rich, as F. Scott Fitzgerald observed, are very different from you and me, but rich and poor share some things, and the changing nature of marriage is one of them. Now Congress is tempted to get into it, says Suzanne Fields of the Washington Times.

The House is considering changes in welfare reform that will make "healthy marriage" grants of as much as $150 million a year to states to spend on programs to curb domestic violence without requiring matching funds. Even though not everyone thinks this is a good idea, there is a strong movement to get the government into marriage promotion, particularly among the poor, says Fields.


  • Some states already sell marriage licenses at a discount if the couple will participate in counseling courses.
  • Other states distribute marriage guides to applicants for licenses and encourage group programs in "relationship skills."

While some of these programs sound touchy-feely and warm and fuzzy, the people who administer them say they reduce the stress that escalates into violence:

  • According to the Brookings Institution, marriage has always been a public issue, but public policy changes as trends in marriage change; homosexual marriage is the hot button in the current debate, but those who pay for cultural changes are, as always, the children.
  • Therapeutic programs to encourage marriage for parents with children and to help them develop "communication" skills have mostly been tested on white, middle-class, educated couples, so it's not clear how much the programs will help poor couples.

Indeed, if the government is going to get into the marriage business, research evaluating each program's worth is essential, says Fields.

Source: Suzanne Fields, "What's love got to do with it?" Washington Times, February 2, 2006.


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