Meeting the Bar: A Propensity Score Analysis of BSF Impacts by Couples’ Economic Status

The Building Strong Families (BSF) project, a randomized control trial to enhance relationships among new parents, had few effects on the families involved. The treatment, which consisted of counseling, relationship skill training, and other family support services, had little impact on relationship outcomes, parenting measures, or child well-being. Three years after randomization, the treatment group, relative to the control group, was no more likely to be married, did not report higher quality parent-child interactions, or have children that had higher achievement test scores. Subgroup analyses, based on relationship quality, multiple partner fertility, fathers’ earnings, race and ethnicity, and the age of the parents, likewise indicated no treatment versus control impacts.

One critical subgroup that heretofore has not been examined are the group of parents who met the “economic bar” to marriage, which consists of couples meeting a threshold of financial well-being, has been associated with transitions to marriage among low-income parents. It is out hypothesis that, when coupled with BSF services, treatment couples who met the economic bar would be more likely to marry than treatment (and control) couples who did not meet the economic bar.

Using the baseline, 15, and 36 month follow-up BSF data, our specific goals are as follows:

  • develop a “meeting the marriage bar” index, based on employment, earnings, job characteristics, and asset ownership
  • using propensity scores, predict from baseline characteristics which treatment and control couples were likely to meet the economic bar
  • compare couples who met the economic bar, by treatment status, on measures of marital status, parent-child interactions, and child well-being