Administration Urged to Focus on Poverty, not Marriage

March 6, 2009

The Obama administration should focus on reducing family poverty in federal programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), not on promoting marriage and fatherhood, say researchers and advocates from universities and national organizations who have jointly published a position paper, Reduce Poverty Using Proven Methods: Eliminate Federal Funding of “Marriage Promotion” and Staff HHS with Appointees Who Value All Families , http://www.unmarried.org/images.

The authors report that from 2006 to 2010, TANF was permitted to award $750 million in grants to support projects promoting healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood. But they point out that no research supports the idea that marriage and fatherhood help alleviate poverty.
The focus on family structure endorsed by the Bush administration and its appointees is misplaced. Family structure has become less important in economic status since the 1980s. Although many factors that affect family structure–single parenting, divorce, cohabitation, LGBT parenting–have increased in the last fifty years, the welfare of children has actually improved.
The focus should be directly on poverty, say the authors. This means that administrators of programs like TANF should be committed to serving the needs of children in all family structures. Alleviating poverty should prioritize proven methods, such as increasing cash benefits; providing childcare and job skills training; improving educational opportunities; raising the federal minimum wage; empowering unions; attacking discrimination of all kinds; and creating decent jobs.
They call for an immediate stop to allocating federal funds for the promotion of marriage and fatherhood and for the removal of all references to and allocations for it in future legislation. No more federal money should be diverted from the real needs of children and of families, no matter how they are constituted.