Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

May 2002Vol. 3, No. 4Strengthening Couples, Marriages in Low-Income Communities

Policy makers interested in crafting strategies designed to strengthen the institution of marriage will find suggestions in a new publication by Theodora Ooms of the Resource Center on Couples and Marriage Policy at the Center on Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

In "Strengthening Couples and Marriage in Low-Income Communities," Ooms addresses why it is important to focus on the state of marriage in low-income communities, what is known about the patterns of family formation and marriage among the poor and near-poor, and what kinds of strategies may help strengthen low-income couples' relationships and marriages.

Ooms suggests that any marriage-strengthening strategy to assist low-income populations be guided by the following principles:

  • Single individuals or single parents should not be stigmatized
  • Coercive and punitive policies should not be used to promote marriage
  • Low-income couples should be invited to help design and shape community-level initiatives
  • The focus of strategies should be on the quality of a marriage, not just preserving its stability
  • High-risk couples should be targeted when they are most ready and willing to get help
  • Parents, regardless of marital status, should have available information, education services and supports to strengthen their relationship
  • Substantial monetary incentives should not be offered, as it may be seen as the sole or principal reason to marry.

Ooms's paper was first published as Chapter 7 in Revitalizing the Institution of Marriage for the Twenty-First Century: An Agenda For Strengthening Marriage, edited by Alan J. Hawkins, Lynn D. Wardle, and David Orgon Coolidge (Praeger, 2002).

"Strengthening Couples and Marriage in Low-Income Communities," is available in PDF format at Revitalizing the Institution of Marriage for the 21st Century can be found on the Greenwood Publishing Group's website (