Study: Government Assistance Can Lead to Divorce

Study: Government Assistance Can Lead to Divorce

The University of Missouri says that food stamps, Medicaid and welfare cause marital harm.

Published September 14, 2011

A few weeks ago many were outraged when a viral video stormed the web showcasing a single Black mother talking about how much she loves her EBT card, but a new study is showing why she may be single.


According to a new report by the University of Missouri, receiving government assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid or welfare can cause much harm in a marriage. In fact, of the 7.2 per 1,000 men and 7.5 per 1,000 women who get divorced, couples receiving assistance are more likely to split.


“We found that there’s a unique relationship among income level, government assistance and marital satisfaction and commitment,” said David Schramm, assistant professor in Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. “The study confirms that low income does have a negative impact on marital quality, but there are additional factors as well. The relationship between income and marital satisfaction is influenced by other issues, including whether or not the couple receives some form of government assistance.” 


In the study, couples making less than $20,000 scored significantly low on dimensions of martial quality including overall satisfaction, commitment, divorce proneness, feelings of being trapped in a marriage and negative interaction.


There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, and according to Census data the poverty rate for African-Americans is 27 percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates nearly 15 percent of all Americans, or 45 million people, receive some sort of food assistance program and 28 percent of blacks, 15 percent of Hispanics, and eight percent of whites are on food stamps.


 “…If couples can’t pay the bills, then they are likely to be more irritable and stressed about other areas of life,” says Schramm. “This leads to negative interactions between spouses or individual feelings of being trapped because they can’t survive on their own. It’s a constant drain on many aspects of marital quality and overall well-being.”


Based on the findings, the University of Missouri plans to implement education programs aimed at low-income couples who receive government assistance. 


To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Written by Danielle Wright


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