Jacksonville: One of America’s Worst Cities for Marriage
In 2014, Men’s Health Magazine presented a study that ranked the 10 worst cities in America for marriage. Jacksonville was number six.
In fact, in 40 of the 44 years prior to 2014, Duval County had the highest divorce rate among all large Florida counties. But, after three years of Communio efforts on the ground, Duval had the lowest rate among all large counties in Florida. What’s more, prior to 2016, there had never been a year in which Jacksonville’s divorce rate was lower than the state average. But in 2017—year two of the initiative in Jacksonville—the divorce rate was 20% below the state average. Without question, a radical shift occurred in Duval county. The sharply lower divorce rate remained reduced through 2018.
How it Happened
Working through our local partner Live the Life ministries, Communio served over 50 churches in Duval County to develop ongoing relationship ministries and put breakthrough microtargeting resources into the market, helping pastors and church leaders to move more than 50,000 people through four-hour or longer programming in the city. Programs included marriage preparation, marriage wellness, and faith development.
Over a 36-month period, the initiative used predictive modeling to make more than 20 million digital impressions targeting those with a higher propensity for divorce. These online efforts were paired with a series of county-wide radio and billboard ads that made struggling couples aware of new marital resources in the city. Altogether, this multi-media campaign drove traffic to a website clearinghouse—www.JAXMarriage.org—where people could search and register for life-changing programs hosted at local churches in and around their zip code.
Local leaders from the Catholic diocese, the Southern Baptist Convention, and scholars from academia, including Dr. Brad Wilcox at the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project, acknowledge the impact this church-centered effort had on family stability.