James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, once said, “To the institution of marriage the true origin of society must be traced.” The results of stable families throughout the years have been the foundation of our country’s formation. Unfortunately today, as the economy is worsening, social and cultural norms are crumbling, and political parties are finding it more difficult to find common ground on multiple issues, many can point to the destruction of the family as the culprit.

Since society rests on a foundation that is rooted in healthy relationships, it is imperative that healthy families be championed. To reiterate this point, recently while speaking at the 2015 Conservative Policy Summit, hosted by The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action for America, Senator Mike Lee stated, “The family is the first and most important institution of our society – and the foundation of American exceptionalism.”

Evidence proves that children benefit from living in a stable home with both of their parents. Children that grow up in a two-parent household perform better than children who grow up in a single parent home. Children raised by a single parent are more likely to have lower educational achievement, increased drug use, and more emotional troubles.

One reason children benefit from living with their married parents is because of the greater financial stability. There is a strong correlation between marriage and financial well-being, and according to a 2012 study by the Heritage Foundation, “In Georgia, married couples with children are 78 percent less likely to be poor than non-married families with the same level of education.”

But, another important reason to promote healthy families is to provide the children with the nurturing that is needed from a mother and father in the same home. A report produced by Princeton University and Brookings Institution found that in addition to the link with child poverty, the increases in couples postponing marriage, cohabiting, divorcing, and having children outside of marriage “appear to be depriving children of such documented benefits of marriage as better physical and emotional health and greater socioeconomic attachment.

A 2008 study estimated that American taxpayers pay $112 billion every year due to the social costs of family fragmentation. Georgia’s divorce rate of 11.4 percent in 2012 was higher than the marriage rate of 6.5 percent.

In order to combat these trends, Georgia Center for Opportunity is launching a Healthy Families Initiative. This community-based initiative focuses on finding ways to encourage healthy relationships, strong marriages, and stable families. Since many individuals lack the skills needed to have a lasting relationship, the initiative will emphasize relationship education. It will also include a public campaign to communicate the importance of marriage.

Family is the institution best suited to help individuals move from dependency to self-sufficiency, so by increasing the number of healthy and stable families, we’re also increasing the likelihood that individuals will succeed in living independent lives.

If you would like to learn more about how marriage impacts economic opportunity and what can be done to change the trends, you can join GCO on December 1st for a discussion with Dr. Brad Wilcox (Senior Fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia).

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