Fragile Families and the Marriage Agenda

  • Sara S. McLanahan


The Bush Administration is proposing to spend 1.5 billion dollars over the next five years on programs to promote “healthy marriages.” The new programs are based on three assumptions: (1) that unmarried parents will participate in programs designed to promote marriage, (2) that participating in the programs will increase marriage, and (3) that children will be better off if their parents marry. This paper uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to assess whether these assumptions are consistent with what we know about unmarried parents and whether the new marriage programs are likely to be successful. I argue that parents are likely to participate if services are provided around the time of the birth, that improving parents’ relationship skills is likely to increase marriage, and that we can be guardedly optimistic about the effects on children.

Key words

marriage non-marital fertility parental relationships child well-being social policy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara S. McLanahan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and Internatioinal AffairsPrinceton UniversityPrinceton

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