Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie Coontz, the director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She is the
author of Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage and
The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap.

Recent Articles

Marriage, Poverty, and Public Policy

Marriage, Poverty, and Public Policy A Discussion Paper from the Council on Contemporary Families Prepared for the Fifth Annual CCF Conference, April 26-28, 2002 by Stephanie Coontz and Nancy Folbre O ne of the stated objectives of welfare legislation passed in 1996 was "to end dependence by promoting marriage." With this legislation coming up for re-authorization, many policy-makers want to devote more public resources to this goal, even if it requires cutting spending on cash benefits, child care, or job training. Some states, such as West Virginia, already use their funds to provide a special bonus to couples on public assistance who get married. (1) In December 2001, more than fifty state legislators asked Congress to divert funds from existing programs into marriage education and incentive policies, earmarking dollars to encourage welfare recipients to marry and giving bonus money to states that increase marriage rates. On February 26, 2002, President Bush called for spending up...

Nostalgia as Ideology

T he more I listen to debates over whether we should promote marriage, the more I am reminded of one of my father's favorite sayings: "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride." Yes, kids raised by married parents do better, on average, than kids raised in divorced- or single-parent homes. Yes, the long-term commitment of marriage confers economic, emotional, and even health benefits on adults as well. Certainly, we should remove marriage disincentives from government programs -- 16 states, for instance, still discriminate against married couples in welfare policy. We should expand health coverage to include "couples counseling" for all who wish it. With better support systems, we may be able to save more potentially healthy marriages and further reduce rates of unwed childbearing among teenagers. But there is no way to re-establish marriage as the main site of child rearing, dependent care, income pooling, or interpersonal commitments in the modern world. Any movement that sets...