Learning and Legislating Love: Family Inequality and U.S. Marriage Education Policy

Colloquium | April 28 | 12-1:30 p.m. | 2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues), Wildavsky Conference Room

 Jennifer Randles, Assistant Professor of Sociology, CSU Fresno

 Jill Duerr Berrick, Zellerbach Family Foundation Professor, School of Social Welfare, UC Berkeley

 Center for Ethnographic Research, Center for Race and Gender, Department of Gender and Women's Studies, Department of Sociology

The U.S. federal Healthy Marriage Initiative has spent almost $1 billion since 2002 to fund hundreds of relationship and marriage education programs across the country. Randles spent three years attending healthy marriage classes and interviewing the couples who took them to understand what marriage education policy reveals about political understandings of how romantic experiences, relationship behaviors, and marital choices are primary mechanisms of inequality. In this talk, she will take the audience inside the marriage education classroom to reveal how healthy marriage policy promotes the idea that preventing poverty depends on individuals’ abilities to learn about skilled love, a strategy that assumes individuals can learn to love in line with long-term marital commitment by developing rational romantic values, emotional competencies, and interpersonal habits. She will ultimately show how the teaching of skilled love is a misguided political strategy intended to prevent risky and financially costly relationship choices and to provide the ostensible link between marriage and financial stability.

 cer@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813