Another comprehensive new study has just reaffirmed a truth that cannot be emphasized too much: Stable families are essential to a healthy society. Government policymakers, take heed.

The study by the Census Bureau shows that children whose parents separate or divorce are twice as likely to fall into poverty as they would have been had their family remained intact. After the family breaks up, family income drops on average between 26 percent and 37 percent.For much too long, government policy has been indifferent to the virtues of stable families. Yet study after study confirms the traditional wisdom: Children from stable families are healthier, happier and easier to educate.

Scripps Howard News Service reports that Washington is considering a raft of policy proposals to buttress family ties. These range from more diligent enforcement of child support obligations and more stringent divorce laws to radically increasing the size of the income tax exemption for dependents.

Most of these proposals are important correctives to a destructive tendency. Government needn't be in the business of telling people how to live. But it should make it easier for people to live in a way that promotes the general welfare.