The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

December 1, 2013

Oklahoma Marriage Initiative is seeing ever-higher divorce rates

For the past dozen years, Oklahoma government and groups have spent more than $70 million in federal money on a marriage program originally aimed at reducing the state’s high divorce rate, in hopes of fighting poverty.

More than fourth-fifths of that money for the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative came from the state’s pool of federal welfare funds.

During that time, however, the rates of divorce, unmarried cohabitation and single-parent families have increased in Oklahoma and the nation, while the percentage of households with married couples has declined, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Poverty rates in Oklahoma have climbed during that period, from about 13 percent to more than 17 percent, U.S. Census Bureau data shows.

Oklahoma Watch

The trends have helped fuel questions among some leaders about whether the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative and similar programs in other states are effective in a broad sense, and whether taxpayers should be funding such marriage-improvement programs.

The marriage initiative, launched in 1999 by Gov. Frank Keating with a goal of cutting divorce rates by a third by 2010, is led by an Oklahoma City public-relations firm that has provided workshops and outreach to several hundred thousand people.

In 2002, initiative leaders abandoned the goal of reducing divorce rates by a third within a decade, saying it was unattainable. The initiative now focuses on encouraging healthy marriages and families, with many participants saying they have benefitted.

Yet the marriage and divorce trends indicate how difficult it is to quantify the success of marriage-promotion programs.

“While these grants are well-intentioned, they oftentimes fail to reach measureable goals and instead send precious tax dollars to well-connected companies that thrive off of government contracts,” U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn said in a recent statement to Oklahoma Watch. “The best way for the federal government to promote marriage is to respect the institution and the rights of parents to care for their children.”

Still, the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative retains strong support among state Republican leaders.

Last session, lawmakers introduced various bills aimed at promoting marriage and discouraging divorce. One, authored by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, will use discretionary welfare funds to pay for public-service announcements promoting the benefits of marriage. Those PSAs will be developed in mid to late 2014.

The marriage push may carry over into next session. In October, Shannon held an interim-study hearing at which experts and state agency officials testified about how marriage can produce economic benefits for individuals and communities.

“We must change the conversation on poverty to focus on stronger families, which in turn will not only produce a more stable and healthy economy, but also improve overall well-being for all Oklahomans,” Shannon said.

At an August appearance, while praising the initiative, Shannon added, “The problem is that it’s been in the micro level, not the macro level. We need to take it out to the macro level because, yes, I think they have seen some successes.”

Text Only
National and world
  • Immigration Overload_Hass.jpg 2008 law unexpectedly at center of border debate

    "The 2008 law creates a process that made sense when you're talking about a limited number of children, the victims of sex trafficking. It doesn't make sense when you talk about 50,000 unaccompanied minors. The 2008 law wasn't designed to deal with this situation." — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Hass.jpg Gaza rocket lands near Israel's main airport

    A Delta Boeing 747 from New York was flying over the Mediterranean headed for Tel Aviv on Tuesday when it turned around and flew to Paris instead. Flight 468 had 273 passengers and 17 crew on board.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rick Perry sending National Guard troops to border

    The deployment of National Guard troops, which may act in a law enforcement capacity under state authority, will cost Texas an estimated $12 million per month. They simply will be “referring and deterring” immigrants and not detaining people, authorities said.

    July 21, 2014

  • Gay, transgender workers gain U.S. bias protection

    “America’s federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people,” President Obama declared at a White House signing ceremony.

    July 21, 2014 1 Story

  • Judge won’t lift Fla. Keys gay marriage stay

    Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia rejected a motion to allow immediate weddings filed by attorneys for Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, a pair of Key West bartenders whose lawsuit successfully challenged the ban.

    July 21, 2014

  • Obama Medal of Honor_Hass.jpg Obama bestows Medal of Honor on N.H. veteran

    Ryan M. Pitts is the ninth living recipient of the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 200 pairs of panties stolen at east Georgia mall

    The Augusta Chronicle reports that security video shows a male entering the store and stuffing the underwear into a large shopping bag.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lawyer: Pelvic exam pics cost Hopkins $190 million

    Johns Hopkins Hospital has agreed to a $190 million settlement with more than 8,000 patients of a gynecologist who secretly photographed and videotaped women in the examining room with a pen-like camera he wore around his neck.

    July 21, 2014

  • Western Wildfires_Hass.jpg Helpful weather coming to Washington wildfires

    Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers estimates that 150 homes have been destroyed, but suspects that number could be higher.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Poor teens’ health may benefit from top schools

    Disadvantaged teens may get more than an academic boost by attending top-notch high schools — their health may also benefit, a study suggests.

    July 21, 2014

Featured Ads