Getting hitched can hitch you to a better financial future, or so a slew of data shows.
But after years of using taxpayer money to promote marriage as a way to help single mothers and their kids climb out of poverty, some experts are arguing it's time to try something different.
"We are continuing to spend money on … these healthy-marriage initiatives, and I think the evidence is now clear that these are not effective policies," said Kristi Williams, an associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. "So, it's time to start thinking about spending that money in a way that's more likely to help single mothers and their children."
A new briefing paper, written by Williams and released Monday by the Council on Contemporary Families, argues marriages of single mothers are not necessarily beneficial to the women or their children.
Williams points to a study finding that more than half of single moms who married were divorced by ages 35 to 44. In many cases, women who marry and later divorce are worse off financially.
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Her research also found that the children of single mothers who later married did not often have extra physical or psychological advantages when they reached adolescence.
Williams said she saw advantages for children whose biological parents later got and stayed married but noted that's uncommon. A long-running project called Fragile Families found that only 16 percent of the low-income unwed mothers in the study were married to their child's biological father five years after the birth.
The government has long funded efforts—stemming from the welfare reform that began in 1996—to encourage stable marriages and responsible fatherhood.