July 11, 2002
                                                                                    10 a.m. EST
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Mary Myrick
PRESS CONFERENCE: July 11, 9:30 a.m.
Smart Marriages Conference


Low-income and young respondents claim greatest interest

Washington, DC—Pundits and politicians all have opinions about what might benefit low income
persons when it comes to marriage and the formation of stable, healthy, two parent homes. In
Oklahoma, under the leadership of Governor Frank Keating, state leaders decided to go to the source.
Oklahoma has just completed the first publicly funded survey to measure the marriage and divorce
culture of an entire state, providing important data on both attitudes and demographics. The
Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI), in conjunction with Oklahoma State University’s Bureau for Social
Research, released its "Marriage in Oklahoma" research report today at the Smart Marriages

"With the current congressional debate about welfare reform and marriage, the findings of this
survey pertaining to low-income recipients of government assistance are particularly compelling," said
Christine Johnson, Director of the Bureau of Social Research at Oklahoma State University. "We found
that low income persons are just as interested in programs to strengthen their own relationships as
anyone else. Among the findings for low income respondents:

Nearly three in four (72%) low-income individuals say they would consider using
relationship education, such as workshops or classes, to strengthen their relationship.
Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the low-income respondents said they would support a
statewide initiative to "promote marriage and reduce divorce."

"In the history of government efforts to change the direction of important social indicators, I
know of nothing else like this effort to measure the direction of a state’s culture," said Scott Stanley of
the University of Denver and a co-author of the research report. "When it comes to state and national
efforts to reverse the precipitous decline in marital stability and family formation, it is crucial that we
first establish what the baseline is on important beliefs and behaviors related to marriage and

The team of researchers also includes Norval Glenn of the University of Texas, Paul Amato of
Penn State University, Steve Nock of the University of Virginia, Howard Markman of the University of
Denver, and Robin Dion of Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. The team also found that:

Oklahoma is a marrying state, with 82 percent of adults having been married at some
point compared to 73 percent nationally.

Oklahoma is also a divorcing state. Research shows that 32 percent of all adults have
divorced compared to 21 percent nationally—with 39% of Oklahomans who had ever
\been married having been divorced.
Of those respondents who considered their marriage to be in serious trouble at some
point (34%), 92% said that they were glad they were still together.
Thirty-eight percent (38%) believe it is acceptable for a man and woman who are not
married to live together, with men (44%) more likely than women (33%) to approve.

"Simple findings such as these tell us important things about the beliefs and attitudes that set
the direction of societal changes. For example, we find that it is quite common for couples to struggle
seriously with their marriages, but make it to a point where they are happy that they made it work,"
says Stanley.

Younger respondents hold beliefs that are different from those who are older. "Young people in
this sample were clearly less positive about marriage and were less likely to say they could see
benefits of marriage over cohabitation," remarked Nock. "Among the findings, younger persons
express less confidence in the institution of marriage than older persons. They are less positive about
marriage and its benefits over cohabitation, are more accepting of divorce and are less likely than
older Oklahomans to think that couples who have children together ought to be married."
When asked, those who have been divorced were most likely to cite low commitment and too
much arguing as the major reasons for their divorce. "These are important indicators of ways couples
might be helped to prevent marital distress and divorce," says Markman.
Remarking about the value of this kind of survey, Johnson says, "We determined that state
recorded vital statistics on marriage and divorce were not sufficient to meet our research objectives.
We decided to conduct a statistically valid, comprehensive survey. This is the first statewide survey
 designed to collect information about attitudes and behaviors related to marriage, divorce and marital
 quality. In addition, we made a strong attempt to include the experiences and beliefs of low-income
persons. Findings for this report are based on interviews conducted with more than 2,300 Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative launched by Governor Frank Keating in 1999 aims to
 strengthen marriage, reduce divorce and improve the well being of Oklahoma’s children. Through its
statewide Marriage and Relationship Education service delivery system, Oklahomans can attend free
workshops to learn skills and attitudes proven to strengthen marriage relationships. The chosen OMI
curriculum, Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP), focuses on effective
communication tools that apply to all relationships (couples, family, peer or work).

"This research report provides a sound basis for future planning as Oklahoma explores services
that will help couples strengthen their relationships and sustain their marriages," said Howard
Hendrick, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Human Services and Director of the Department of Human
Services. "In Oklahoma, under the leadership of Governor Frank Keating, we have made it the public
policy of our state to support marriage. This report confirms that priority and this data will give us
important insights to help us best serve Oklahomans. We are glad to share what we are learning with
others, as the country is seeking new and expanded ways to support marriage in meaningful ways."
For more information about the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, visit www.okmarriage.org.

Note: Wade Horn, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Health and Human Services,
will be in attendance at the press conference, along with Howard Hendrick, Oklahoma Cabinet
Secretary for Health and Human Services: Christine Johnson, Ph. D., Bureau for Social Research,
Oklahoma State University: Scott Stanley, Ph.D., University of Denver; Howard Markman, Ph.D.,
University of Denver; and Robin Dion, Mathematica.
Note: The Research Advisory Group to the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative and Oklahoma State
University’s Bureau for Social Research will convene in Oklahoma in late August or early September to
discuss possible programs, services, and strategies, based on the data from this survey, and there will
be an in-state media availability at that time.


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