The success of welfare reform will depend on the existing capabilities of low-income parents, the stability of the parents' relationship and desire for father involvement, and the effects of local policies on parental relationships and child well being. These factors can be assessed with information from the current Fragile Families and Child Well-being study on unwed parents, which is following 3,675 children born to unmarried parents and 1,125 children born to married parents in 21 cities with different welfare policies and systems. The results of the study will demonstrate whether strict welfare policies will increase the number of parents living together as intended or whether they will harm children by pushing families further into poverty and stressful situations. Preliminary data from Oakland, California and Austin, Texas indicate that more than two-thirds of unwed parents expect that they will marry and most of the mothers support the relationship between their child and his or her father. However, the majority of unmarried parents do not have adequate financial resources to provide for their families. Almost half of the parents do not have a high school degree and fathers earn an average of less than $12,500 per year. Mothers earn an average of $4,000-$5,000 per year. Future analyses will reflect the impact of different welfare reform policies on the employment and cohabitation rates of families in these cities. Numerous references, 6 tables.
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