The Public Interest

Welfare reform and marriage

Douglas J. Bersharov & Timothy S. Sullivan

Fall 1996

WELFARE reform has traditionally focused on helping single mothers get jobs, perhaps with the help of government-funded job training and child care. But such efforts are expensive and have shown only modest results. Recently, long-overdue efforts to reduce out-of-wedlock births have been made. But, again, results have been largely unimpressive. What about marriage as a route off welfare? Despite the hopes of feminists that women will become economically independent of men, marriage remains a major source of economic security for women with children, especially if they have few job skills. In fact, many divorced and unwed mothers escape welfare (and poverty) only through marriage. Hence, encouraging such unions ought to be as important an issue in welfare reform as job training and work. 

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