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Money Woes Weaken the Institution of Marriage: Study

THURSDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Money problems, drinking and drug use are among the social and economic factors that make low-income couples less likely to marry and more likely to divorce than couples with more money, a new study suggests.

But the researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, also found that people with lower incomes value the institution of marriage just as much as those with higher incomes, and have similar romantic standards for marriage.

The findings suggest that efforts to strengthen marriage among low-income people should move beyond promoting the value of marriage and instead focus on the problems faced by low-income people, according to the authors of the study, which was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

"Over the past 15 years, efforts to tackle declining marriage rates and increasing divorce rates among low-income couples in the [United States] have been guided by assumptions about why there are fewer low-income marriages and why a higher percentage fail," study co-author Thomas Trail said in a journal news release. "The aim of our study was to separate the myth from the reality."

He and colleague Benjamin Karney analyzed telephone survey responses from more than 6,000 people in Florida, California, New York and Texas. The average age of the participants was 45.

Compared to those with higher incomes, people with lower incomes held similar values toward marriage, were less likely to approve of divorce and were more likely to value the economic aspects of marriage, including the husband and wife having good jobs.

"Prompted by the belief that the institution of marriage is in crisis among the poor, the federal government has spent $1 billion on initiatives to strengthen marriage among low-income populations," Karney said in the news release. "Often these are based on the assumption that there must be something wrong with how people with low incomes view marriage or that they just are not very good at managing intimate relationships."

But, Trail said, "We found that people with low incomes value marriage as an institution, have similar standards for choosing a marriage partner and experience similar problems with managing their relationships. We suggest that initiatives to strengthen marriage among the poor should also take social issues into account, as they can place a tremendous amount of stress on a marriage."

More information

The U.S. Administration for Children and Families outlines the benefits of a healthy marriage.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of Marriage and Family, news release, July 10, 2012

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