Nonmarital Birth Reductions Rewarded, Bonus for Marriage Set
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on September 15 announced the second of four annual awards to the five U.S. jurisdictions experiencing the greatest declines in their nonmarital birthrates; in order to be eligible, the recipients were also required to show a reduction in their abortion rates. The $100 million "illegitimacy bonus"—established by the August 1996 welfare reform law that set the reduction of out-of-wedlock pregnancies as one of four core goals of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program—was split evenly among Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan and the District of Columbia. Three of those jurisdictions—Alabama, Michigan and the District of Columbia—also received the award last year. In fact, 45 states, four U.S. jurisdictions and the nation as a whole actually experienced increases in the proportion of out-of-wedlock births to total births between 1995-1996 and 1997-1998. Moreover, the reductions observed in the winning jurisdictions ranged from moderate (4.13% in the District of Columbia) to infinitesimal (0.022% in Illinois). DHHS officials declined to speculate on the factors behind states' rate changes and noted that two of the four years used to calculate this year's awards predate the establishment of the bonus.
Just two weeks earlier, DHHS released final regulations for distributing $200 million annually for "high performance" related to other core TANF goals. In previous years, DHHS has awarded this money based solely on a series of work-related measures. Starting in FY 2002, DHHS will also include a series of measures related to self-sufficiency and one measure related to family formation and stability. The latter measure, reflecting the TANF goals of promoting marriage and encouraging "the formation and maintenance of two-parent families," will reward 10 states with the greatest increase in the proportion of children residing in families headed by a married couple. DHHS will allocate $10 million to these states, based on the relative size of their TANF grants. The self-sufficiency measures focus on participation in specific support programs: food stamps, child care assistance, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.