ACF Announces Four New Projects to Study Healthy Marriage

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HHS News Release

The Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families today announced that it will support four new research and evaluation projects related to healthy marriage. Healthy marriage programs help couples who choose marriage for themselves to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to form and sustain successful unions.

Healthy marriage is the one of the cornerstones of President Bush's agenda to strengthen families and improve the well-being of children," said Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "It's important that we conduct careful research to advance our knowledge of which approaches are most effective."

The first project is an evaluation of healthy marriage programs for low-income couples in their child-rearing years who are married or plan to marry. Couples will be randomly assigned to research groups and the researchers will study the couples' relationships and their children's well-being at the time of follow-up. The project builds on research that shows positive results from marriage education. ACF has awarded a contract to MDRC to carry out this work. Subcontractors include Abt Associates, Child Trends, Optimal Solutions Group, and McFarland & Associates.

Next is an evaluation of community-wide healthy marriage campaignsinitiatives. The researchers will study the effects of community approaches including1) services to improve marriage quality and stability; 2) state and community marriage policies; 3) media campaigns and 4) other marriage-related strategies. ACF has awarded a contract to RTI International to carry out this work. Subcontractors include The Urban Institute, the Crider Group, and Betah Associates, Inc.

A third study will analyze the financial incentives and disincentives contained in tax provisions and transfer programs as they regard marriage and family formation for low-income families. One of the results of the study will be user-friendly software to calculate the financial incentives for marriage in various jurisdictions. ACF has awarded a contract to The Urban Institute to carry out this work, with Forum One Communications as a subcontractor.

The fourth study will analyze options for improving the collection of marriage and divorce statistics at the federal, state, and local levels. ACF has awarded a contract to The Lewin Group to carry out this work, with The Urban Institute as a subcontractor.

"We welcome the infusion of new knowledge about how best to promote healthy marriage," said Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., assistant secretary for children and families. "We have no intention of coercing anyone to marry or encouraging people to stay in unhappy or abusive marriages; rather we want to make sure that every couple who chooses to marry has an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a strong and stable marriage."

These new awards expand ACF's investment in research and evaluation projects related to healthy marriage. In September 2002, ACF initiated a project to evaluate healthy marriage services for unwed parents around the time of the birth of a child. More information on this project is available at

Contact: Chris Downing
ACF Press Office (202) 401-9215
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