The Decline in Marriage: What To Do

Elisabeth Donahue, Ron Haskins, and Sara McLanahan


High U.S. rates of family dissolution and lone-parent child rearing impose large costs on individuals and society. A variety of new federal and state initiatives are attempting to promote family formation and healthy marriage among interested couples, including poor and minority couples who have had babies outside marriage. Careful evaluations of these programs should identify which are most effective.

Policy Brief

Marriage provides benefits both to children and to society. Although it was once possible to believe that the nation’s high rates of divorce, cohabitation, and nonmarital childbearing represented little more than lifestyle alternatives brought about by the freedom to pursue individual self-fulfillment, many analysts now believe that these individual choices can be damaging to the children who have no say in them and to the society that enables them.

View full policy brief — (PDF – 94KB)


Sara McLanahan

William S. Tod Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs - Princeton University