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Fragile Families, Welfare Reform, and Marriage.

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Brookings Institution.
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Marriage will be an important issue in the upcoming debate over the reauthorization of welfare reform. According to recent studies, both children and adults benefit from marriage. Still, one of three children in the U.S. is born to unmarried parents. At the time of birth, most unmarried parents are committed to each other and to their child and have high hopes of marriage and a future together. But these parents face numerous barriers to creating and maintaining a stable family life, including low education and job skills, lack of jobs, and poor relationship skills. Helping these parents achieve their goal of stability will require new ideas and new policies such as providing services that start at birth; treating the parents as a couple rather than as individuals; offering services that promote communication and increase employability; reducing marriage penalties; and making child support enforcement more reasonable for low-income fathers. While some of these ideas have been tried in the past, others have never been fully implemented, and none has been offered as a single, comprehensive package. Because Congress is unlikely to enact a full package of services, the federal government should consider funding state-run demonstrations to ascertain the benefits and costs of the proposed reforms. (Author abstract)

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