U.S. Social Policy and Family Complexity

Leonard M. Lopoo, Kerri M. Raissian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The United States has a number of social policies that were designed explicitly to provide options and supports for individuals related to their family formation decisions, such as the Title X National Family Planning Program and the Healthy Marriage Initiative. At the same time, because social policies can have considerable implications for the populations they target, we have long known that government policy can impact family structure and individuals' fertility decisions even when such an impact was not the policy's stated objective. This article reviews both theoretical and empirical literature asking to what extent United States' social policy affects the complexity of families. Specifically, we review the literature on divorce and custody laws, means-tested transfer programs, and policies designed to provide information and services related to family formation. We report findings, and discuss common themes across the literature and identify important gaps in knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-230
Number of pages18
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • family complexity
  • social policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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