Welfare to Work and Marriage? How the Transition from Welfare to Work Influences Relationships between Unmarried Parents

Laura M. Tach, Harvard University

While researchers have devoted a great deal of attention to whether welfare influences marriage, they have rarely evaluated how welfare participation and transitions can impact relationship quality. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this article shows that even though there is a high degree of stability in reports of relationship quality, welfare and employment transitions are associated with changes in both objective and subjective indicators of parental relationship quality. In turn, relationship quality is a highly significant predictor of transitions into marriage and relationship dissolution. However, relationship quality serves as only a modest mediator between employment/welfare transitions and relationship status outcomes. These results suggest that parental relationship quality may be sensitive to welfare and employment transitions in the post-welfare reform era, above and beyond changes in marital or relationship status, but that substantial improvement in relationship quality may be difficult to achieve through policy interventions.

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Presented in Session 98: Promoting Healthy Marriages: Can Government Play a Role?