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An important step toward changing this attitude would be to reduce the penalties against marriage that the welfare system imposes. A single mother can receive far more from welfare than if she can if she gets married. So for many low-income couples, marriage means a reduction in government assistance and an overall decline in the couple’s joint income. That’s a clear disincentive.

Lawmakers could also encourage public advertising that promotes the importance of marriage, as well as expand the small “healthy marriage initiative” that’s currently run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In 2010, only 59 percent of all births in the nation occurred to married couples, down from 93 percent in 1964. The trend lines are definitely running in the wrong direction. Marriage is at risk — it’s time to save it.

Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation (