The Bush Administration has focused on government marriage promotion as the solution to the high poverty rates experienced by single parent families, diverting to marriage promotion tens of millions of dollars appropriated by Congress for other purposes, and successfully lobbying Congress to establish a federal marriage promotion program. These programs seek to get unmarried parents to marry and to deter separation or divorce. Even those who advocate these programs concede that they have not been proven to achieve these purposes.
Marriage promotion programs may intrude the government into fundamentally private decisions that experience teaches are best left to individual choice. They also divert to unproven programs limited anti-poverty funds that could otherwise be spent on programs such as job training and child care subsidies that have been proven to work. They send the message to women that the way out of poverty is dependence on a spouse rather than economic self-sufficiency.
Marriage promotion is also potentially dangerous. Many of the low income mothers who are the principal targets of government marriage promotion efforts are domestic violence victims. There is the risk that marriage promotion may unintentionally encourage victims to marry or to stay married to their abusers.
Marriage promotion may also lead to discrimination against single parent families that actually increases their poverty and hardship. Some marriage promotion supporters advocate promoting marriage by excluding single parent families from some public benefits.
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