The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

December 1, 2013

Oklahoma Marriage Initiative is seeing ever-higher divorce rates

(Continued)

*****

Measuring success

In 2002, the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, working with university researchers, conducted a survey to measure various factors about marriage. The purpose was to gauge current attitudes toward marriage and set a baseline for measuring the program’s effects later.

The survey found high rates of marriage and divorce, as well as trends such as couples getting married at an age younger than the national average, and high shares of married people who were previously divorced.

So far, no follow-up survey has been done.

“We have not had the money or the right design to do a comprehensive evaluation on the entire range of the initiative services,” Cox said.

A 2002 story in the Washington Times quoted an OSU researcher as saying the baseline survey cost $150,000.

After the survey, the initiative’s research team concluded that Keating’s goal of reducing divorce by one-third in a decade was unattainable.

“That was more of a policy statement than it was an actual research-based statement to make,” Cox said, adding that Keating was seeking funding.

“We’re not just trying to reduce divorce,” Cox said. “Our mission is to provide relationship education and skills to the public.”

The Department of Human Services is responsible for overseeing the initiative. Public Strategies files an annual independent audit with DHS, and there are yearly meetings between the company and DHS to discuss finances and performance, Cox said.

*****

Marriage and prosperity

In 1998, before the initiative began, University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University economists produced a report on factors that would allow the state to become more prosperous. Among those was lowering the rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock births and child abuse.

Gov. Keating then formed the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative with the stated goal of lowering divorce rates.

Scientific studies on the broader successes of healthy marriage initiatives have been mixed. Some found significant positive effects while others found no effect. An evaluation in 2010 found positive results from the Oklahoma initiative’s Family Expectations program, which targets couples expecting a baby, although among seven sites, only Oklahoma City’s results were statistically significant.

Meanwhile, divorce rates have risen and marriage rates have declined. Experts debate which cause-effect dynamic is greater: lower marriage rates worsening poverty or higher poverty lowering marriage rates.

U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000 to 2012 shows that while married households in Oklahoma still make up the vast majority of “coupled households,” the percentage of married households has fallen, from 54 percent to 49 percent, reflecting a national trend.

The rates of people over age 15 who are divorced, of unmarried cohabitating couples and of single-mother households have increased in the state, federal data shows.

In 2012, Oklahoma had the third-highest divorce rate in the country, measured by the Census Bureau as the percentage of people aged 15 and over who currently are divorced. Nevada and Maine had the highest shares, over 14 percent; Oklahoma’s was 13.5 percent.

Cox said the mission of reducing divorce still is a worthy one, but the goal has proven more difficult and complex than expected.

She said the tools offered through the marriage initiative not only help strengthen  marriage and families, but have positive social and economic benefits for the state.

Myrick said the initiative’s programs have been proven to be effective for participants.

“Everybody that comes through from all over the country talks about how it’s the most promising thing happening for particularly low-income families,” she said.  

It will take time to see the full results of the marriage initiative, Cox said, because it is confronting both large social trends and stigmas about seeking marriage help, as well as trying to change the way people think about marriage.

“I believe that will happen for us in the future and I believe we’ll be shown to be effective,” Cox said. “We believe all things are on trend to go onward and upward.”

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on important public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.

Text Only
National and world
  • Economic Recovery web.jpg U.S. economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

    • Inflation is under control. Runaway price increases would be destructive. Low inflation can lay a foundation for growth.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war

    A Palestinian health official put the death toll at 695 and said more than 4,100 were wounded, with civilian casualties rising sharply since Israel sent tanks and troops into Gaza last week in its first ground operation in five years.
    Israel has not offered its own count, but Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said Wednesday that 210 Gaza militants were killed since the ground operation began.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oil Train Fires web.jpg Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

    Accident investigators have complained for decades that older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are too easily punctured or ruptured, spilling their contents when derailed. Since 2008, there have been 10 significant derailments in the U.S. and Canada in which crude oil has spilled from ruptured tank cars, often igniting and resulting in huge fireballs. The worst was a runaway oil train that exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic a year ago, killing 47 people.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taiwan Plane Crash web.jpg Relatives fly to Taiwan plane crash site, 48 dead

    Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday, authorities said. The plane was on a flight from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona Execution web.jpg Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution began

    Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Flights Canceled Israel web.jpg Airlines ban flights to Israel after rocket strike

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Health overhaul web.jpg Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash

    But the split rulings don’t necessarily mean another trip to the Supreme Court for the Affordable Care Act.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Senate Georgia web.jpg Perdue defeats Kingston in Georgia Senate runoff

    Tuesday night’s primary runoff win validates Perdue’s campaign as an outsider.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ODD Brooklyn Bridge M_Hass.jpg Police probing switch of flags on Brooklyn Bridge

    Video footage of the security breach shows the unidentified people walking on the bridge's footpath at about 3:10 a.m., and 20 minutes later the light on the bridge's Brooklyn tower flickers and goes dark. The same thing happens about 12 minutes later on the Manhattan tower.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Veterans Health_Hass.jpg Obama nominee McDonald pledges to ‘transform’ VA

    Robert McDonald cited problems with patient access to health care, transparency, accountability and integrity, among other issues, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee over his nomination today.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

Featured Ads