January 9, 2016


Marriage Matters : Conservatives and liberals should agree: Children benefit from two-parent households and government can help. (Ron Mincy and Robert Doar, Jan. 7, 2016, US News)

We agree that marriage matters. Marriage is more than just a mechanism through which households receive two incomes. In the United States, the institution of marriage is the most reliable way for children to get what they most need: two consistent and engaged parents. While we know it is difficult to find solutions to issues that so deeply involve personal choice, we believe that any serious agenda to help the poor must rest on strategies to strengthen families. 

First, we believe leaders from all sectors have a responsibility to be clear and direct about how hard it is to raise a child without two committed parents; and that in the U.S., marriage is the easiest way to obtain such parenting. Just as we've seen reductions in smoking and teen pregnancy after public information campaigns, we propose an effort of similar scope to promote the value of committed co-parenting and marriage. America's college graduates appear to have been influenced by a similar cultural expectation: The birth rate for unmarried college graduates is 9 percent compared to more than 50 percent for women with a high school degree or less. When it comes to marriage before childbearing, American elites should not be afraid to preach what they practice.

Second, we ought to enable responsible childbearing by making women and men aware of their options for planning pregnancies through birth control, and ensure access to effective contraceptives.

We also recognize that, in addition to increasing the share of stable two-parent families to make parenting easier, we must help to close the parenting gap between low-income families and better-off ones. Here, government can play a positive role by supporting programs that teach parents the practices and skills needed to achieve the high goals parents have for their children. 

Evidence-based home visiting programs, such as the largely successful Nurse Family Partnership funded by the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, provide critical education and guidance that help the mother and father better care for their children. We encourage continued funding of that program and increased efforts by states to tie their spending to evidence-based models. Government cannot effectively raise a child, but it can allocate its funding to efforts that have been proven to help close the parenting gap.

Finally, the economic struggles of men without a college degree have made marriage less attractive to women in low-income communities. Improving family life requires that disconnected men be helped to gain their footing in the labor market. Enhancing the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults and noncustodial parents, as President Barack Obama and Speaker Paul Ryan have proposed, could help encourage employment and increase earnings.

Posted by at January 9, 2016 9:08 AM