Causal Role of Marriage Formation in Welfare, Poverty, and Child Well-Being



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work


This article examines whether “marriage formation” policy is an effective singular public policy for reducing welfare and poverty and improving child well-being in the absence of other policy reforms. The article proposes two theses regarding marriage formation policy in the United States:

  1. There is no valid and reliable evidence which has determined marriage is a singular, independent variable causing improved child-well-being and reduced welfare and poverty; and
  2. There is evidence of multiple resource availability and relationship stability variables as the most valid and reliable predictors of adult and child economic and social well-being. The article examines the contrasting philosophical positions on marriage formation policy. The perspective which asserts marriage is the single causal variable is examined through recent proposals by the Bush Administration (Office of Child Support Enforcement, 2003; Administration for Children and Families, 2004) and its underlying theoretical and research justifications (Murray, 2001, 1984; Mead, 2001, 1986; Rector, 2001; Fagan, Patterson, & Rector, 2002; Whitehead, 2004). Evidence of the multiple interdependent variable approach comes from a variety of research studies detailed in the article.



Perspectives on Social Work, Poverty, Marriage Formation, William D. Cabin, Public Policy, Perspectives on Social Work, Poverty, Marriage formation, Social work, Public Policy