NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Getting Unwed Couples to the Altar

February 13, 2004

Getting unwed parents to marry, as the Bush administration would like to see happen with $1.5 billion in welfare funds, is going to be difficult, says a study of poor, unwed parents in Louisiana.

The Louisiana study followed 2000 couples and discovered:

  • Only 40 percent of unmarried couples remained in their relationship five months after the birth of their child.
  • Money, work and sexual fidelity issues were the main reasons given for the deterioration of relationships; many of the co-habitating mothers and fathers already had children from previous relationships, which affected their willingness to marry their current partners.
  • The national study showed that 86 percent of mothers and 91 percent of fathers who already lived together planned to marry when their child was born; however, only 15 percent married within a year of the birth of their child, while 21 percent broke up.
  • Some 82 percent of mothers and 84 percent of fathers who were romantically involved but not living together planned to marry when their child was born; in this case, however, only 11 percent actually married within a year, while 32 percent broke up.

President Bush has budgeted $300 million per year in welfare funds to promote marriage, particularly in low-income communities.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "Pro-Marriage Bid Faces Obstacles," Washington Times, January 27, 2002; based upon Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, Princeton University and Columbia University.


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