Hundreds of Millions of Dollars Later, Program to Relieve Poverty by Promoting Marriage Didn’t Work
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
A Bush-era program designed to help poor people improve their lives through healthy marriages wound up consuming hundreds of millions of dollars and producing few results.
Announced in 2004, the Healthy Marriage Initiative was launched two years later with funding from welfare programs. In many instances, federal funds were given to religious organizations and leaders to conduct marriage counseling for low-income Americans.
But according to research by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Marriage Initiative produced little in the way of improvements for poor people’s lives. Some married couples were judged to be happier after engaging in certain programs, but evidence was wanting when it came to dealing with unmarried couples, single mothers and raising people out of poverty.
Participants hired for the program included “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage,” run by Mark Gungor, a non-Spanish-speaking Wisconsin minister who held seminars for Latinos. Money also went to Rabbi Stephen Baars, who delivered his “Bliss” marriage seminars to inner-city residents of Washington, DC.
The program has continued to receive funding, with Congress appropriating $150 million in 2010 and budgeting another $150 million for 2013.
To Learn More:
The GOP's Dead-End Marriage Program (by Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones)
What Works in Marriage and Relationship Education? A Review of Lessons Learned with a Focus on Low-Income Couples (by Alan J. Hawkins and Theodora Ooms, National Healthy Marriage Resource Center) (pdf)
Let Them Eat Wedding Rings (Alternatives to Marriage Project) (pdf)
Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive For Promotion of Marriage (by Robert Pear and David Kirkpatrick, New York Times)
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