Our Breakthrough event based on transforming broken relationships into flourishing families is happening on August 25!
There’s no doubt about it: Marriage is in crisis today, both in Georgia and across the United States. But even as we grieve declining marriage rates among young people—many of whom choose to cohabit rather than tie the knot—and spiking divorce rates among Baby Boomers, we’re reminded that we have so much to celebrate. And we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what the future holds.
Why? Because we know that healthy marriages are a cornerstone of our society. And they’ll always be. We know that married people tend to be happier, healthier, wealthier, and enjoy more stability in their lives. Those benefits also extend to kids, who perform better in school and have a far slimmer chance of being in poverty.
In the spirit of celebrating all that’s great about marriage, we’re thrilled to recognize National Marriage Week (February 7-14) leading up to Valentine’s Day. National Marriage Week seeks to foster collaboration around the country to “strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a culture that fosters strong marriages.”
One of our core goals here at Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is to give couples the tools they need to not just survive, but thrive in their marriages. Empirical research clearly tells us that marriage is a crucial step toward achieving economic and relational stability. In fact, it’s one part of the three-part “success sequence”: Those who get a good education, work full-time, and marry before having children are nearly guaranteed a place in the middle class.
This National Marriage Week, if you’re looking for ways to strengthen your own relationship or help others strengthen theirs, here are several practical ways to get started:
- Sign up for a “Build my Relationship” web conference: GCO’s Healthy Families Initiativeis now offering a new way to connect with licensed professionals via a series of live web conferences. You’ll have the opportunity to engage in conversation with our experts and gain insight into other resources and tools available to build your best relationship. Register Now.
- Attend a “Prepping for Romance” workshop: A “best of the best” relationship training workshop. Prepping for Romance helps build communication skills and provides the tools to create a solid marriage foundation. Register Now.
- Help a teen with our “How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk or Jerkette” workshop: Want to help your teens navigate the challenging waters of dating and relationships and build a strong foundation for marriage? This interactive workshop is designed specifically for high school students and teaches them how to effectively date with long-term, healthy relationships in mind. Register Now.
Georgia lawmakers are poised to consider several bills that would make education savings accounts (ESAs) a reality for students in our state. ESAs empower families with the option of leaving their local public school and choosing an educational option that better fits the needs of their child—such as private school, tutoring, or online learning programs.
In a recent piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, columnist Kyle Wingfield makes the strong point that at least one of these bills—House Bill 482—is “probably the most bulletproof piece of school-choice legislation Georgia has ever seen.”
Specifically, the current version of HB 482 has several provisions and accountability measures that directly address common objections raised by opponents of school choice. The bill:
- Reaches students who need help the most: It prioritizes students who have special needs, have been bullied, are from low-income households, are adopted or in the foster-care system, or live with an active-duty military parent stationed in Georgia. This hyper-targeted segment accounts for less than 0.25 percent of the entire public-school student population.
- Implements financial controls and requires standardized testing: The bill also creates strong financial accountability mechanisms for both public and private schools involved with ESAs. Another accountable measure requires students participating in the ESA program to take nationally norm-referenced tests measuring academic achievement in math and language arts.
As Wingfield summarizes, the bill “addresses every objection school-choice opponents have ever raised. Well, except for their objection to the very existence of school choice at all.”
Think about the opportunities opened up by ESAs for students who face a dim future in a school that doesn’t meet their needs:
- A low-income student in a low-performing school district can receive an education that gives him or her the best chance of flourishing in the future.
- A bullied student can escape a toxic, dangerous environment and flourish at a safer school of choice.
- A special-needs student—maybe a child with autism, a traumatic brain injury, or an orthopedic impairment—can receive the individualized attention needed to thrive.
Without ESAs and other school-choice measures, these students are likely to remain stuck in local school districts that fall short in adequately addressing their unique needs.
If lawmakers approved an ESA bill this year, Georgia would become the sixth state nationally to create one of these programs.
America was founded on the principle that people should have the opportunity to flourish, to live out their dreams – to be happy. Our country’s forefathers cherished this important truth so much they included it in the United States’ Declaration of Independence. America was designed as a place where all citizens have “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While people search for satisfaction in life in various ways, employment continues to top the list as a measurement of happiness.
“In America, job satisfaction relates to life satisfaction. Among those who say they are very happy in their lives, 95 percent are also satisfied with their jobs,” writes Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, in his book The Road to Freedom. “Only 5 percent say they are not satisfied with their work. The evidence also shows that the relationship is causal: job satisfaction actually increases life happiness.”
While not everyone has their dream job, working allows people to achieve something greater than themselves.
In the recently published book The Human Cost of Welfare, authors Phil Harvey and Lisa Conyers address the many reasons why work is so instrumental in fostering happiness. The book’s authors conclude that job achievement is needed for personal worth. Boredom and depression can result from lack of work, and being needed makes people feel valued and important. Depending on others for basic daily living needs decreases self-worth.
At Georgia Center for Opportunity, our goal is to help individuals flourish through productive work. More than half a million Georgians are without work, but desire the opportunity to succeed. Through extensive research and collaboration with community leaders, state lawmakers and businesses, we’ve been able to help improve work opportunities for ex-offenders. We’re also exploring practical options for real reforms to Georgia’s Welfare System, in hopes of motivating recipients to self-sufficiency.
Through collaboration with community partners, area nonprofits, local businesses, and community leaders, GCO has facilitated a series of “Hiring Well, Doing Good” discussions within the Atlanta area. These conversations give local business and organizations an opportunity to connect and share their best-practices for hiring unemployed or underemployed men and women while improving a company’s bottom line.
The evidence remains true even for part-time workers and those not receiving large paychecks. Brooks’ research shows that “[A]dults who worked ten hours a week or more in 2002, 89 percent said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. … There is no difference between those with below- and above-average incomes: 89 percent are satisfied.”
It’s quite clear that working is far more valuable than just the paycheck received at the end of the day.