Preliminary Results Show Jacksonville Divorce Rate Down 28 Percent in 24 Months
The divorce rate plummeted in Jacksonville 28 percent in the first two years of the Culture of Freedom Initiative's efforts on the ground, saving taxpayers an estimated nearly $50 million and keeping thousands of children in homes with both biological parents.
This donor-led effort is still only 2 years old, so these results should be considered preliminary. However, a third party outside academic analysis by Dr. Brad Wilcox from the University of Virginia confirmed the recent drop in divorce. Further outside study will be done following the third year of the initiative to see if this drop continues.
Donors worked through 93 churches and local civic organizations to move 35,000 through four-hour or longer programming in the city during that same period. Programs fell into marriage preparation, marriage wellness, or faith development. The initiative used predictive modeling to make more than 15 million digital impressions targeting those with a higher propensity for divorce.
"Based on our church's experiences over the last two years, it is evident that the efforts of the Culture of Freedom Initiative have had a substantial effect on the current drop in divorces in Duval County," said Pastor Wayne Lanier with Celebration Church—the largest church in Jacksonville.
Live the Life has been the point-organization on the ground coordinating Culture of Freedom activity in Jacksonville. While still an early stage project with preliminary results, local leaders from the Catholic diocese, the Southern Baptist Convention, and scholars from the academy have joined Celebration Church in acknowledging the impact this donor-led effort has had on family stability.
Frontline Organization Partner in Jacksonville
Live the Life is grounded in the belief that young adults who put education, work, marriage, and parenthood in the right order have dramatically better life outcomes. Their 4-hour long workshops range from "Preparing for Forever" to help young people entering the dating scene to "The Power of Us" designed to help engaged and married couples improve their communication skills.
From a preliminary report authored by Dr. Brad Wilcox on the COFI effort in Jacksonville, one of three test markets of the initiative:
"Since 2016, the county has witnessed a remarkable decline in divorce: from 2015 to 2017, the divorce rate fell 28 percent. As family scholars, we have rarely seen changes of this size in family trends over such a short period of time."
Creating Powerful Life Change in Jacksonville – Our Unique Model in Action
In coordination with Live the Life and other Jacksonville nonprofits, COFI served churches and frontline organizations with data insights helping to identify marriages at risk of divorce in their sphere of influence.
COFI supported churches and local organizations with more than $250,000 in microtargeting and promotional scholarships to drive at-risk couples to Live the Life marriage courses.
In 2018, COFI is re-investing in Jacksonville churches and community groups with the greatest success. As they see increased membership and productivity, these organizations are beginning to take over the full costs of expanding life-changing programs.