The public has been concerned about "family breakdown"
for a long time, but it was not until the passage of welfare reform in 1996 that
the federal government decided to get into the business of promoting marriage.
Although it was little noticed at the time, three of the four purposes of the
welfare legislation refer directly or indirectly to marriage and family
formation. The law exhorts states to promote "job preparation, work and
marriage," to "prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies,"
and to "encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families."