Effects of Two Healthy Marriage Programs for Low-Income Couples: Evidence from the Parents and Children Together Evaluation

OPRE Report 2019-06
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Jan 31, 2019
Authors
Quinn Moore, Sarah Avellar, Ankita Patnaik, Reginald Covington, and April Wu

Compared with usual services available in the community, the HM programs in PACT:

  • improved couples’ relationship quality, including relationship commitment and support and affection, although they did not improve relationship happiness
  • helped couples avoid destructive conflict behaviors, although they did not improve use of constructive conflict behaviors
  • increased the likelihood that couples were married at the one-year follow-up
  • improved co-parenting, as measured by the degree to which couples reported they believed they worked well together in raising their child(ren)
  • did not affect men’s earnings or their perceptions of economic improvement; improved women’s self-reported earnings, but not earnings based on administrative data

Research shows that parents and children tend to fare better on a range of outcomes when they live in low-conflict, two-parent families. Recognizing the potential benefits of healthy relationships for low-income families, Congress has funded three rounds of grants for Healthy Marriage (HM) programs since 2006. The Office of Family Assistance (OFA), in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awards and oversees the grants, which aim to promote the well-being and long-term success of children and families by fostering parents’ relationship stability and economic well-being. To learn more about the effectiveness of HM programs, OFA funded, and ACF’s Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation oversaw, a contract with Mathematica Policy Research to conduct the multicomponent Parents and Children Together (PACT) evaluation. This evaluation included a large-scale, random assignment examination of two federally funded HM programs serving low-income couples that received grants in 2011. This brief presents the impacts of these programs about one year after study enrollment on:

  1. the status and quality of the couples’ relationships
  2. the co-parenting relationships
  3. job and career advancement.