How Society Works

How Society Works

Running Away, Religion, and Family Structure: Is Your Child a Flight Risk?

family, MARRI, marriage, religion, youth No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff

From our latest Mapping America publication (111: “Ever Run Away” by Current Religious Attendance and Structure of Family of Origin):

Adolescents from intact married families who worship at least weekly have an average runaway rate of 4 percent. By contrast, youth from all other family structures who never attend religious services have the highest average runaway rate, 15 percent. 11 percentage points is a significant difference! For more on the benefits of marriage and weekly worship, view MARRI’s other published Mapping Americas.

What Hath the Hedge Fund to Do with the Household?

child well-being, divorce, economics, family, feminism, marriage, social institutions, Wendell Berry No comments
By Julia Polese, Intern
Slate.com recently featured an article provocatively titled: “Help America: Get Divorced!” Author Michael Yglesias cites federal data to show that divorce rates have been falling as the economic recession continues. He writes that “the United States fell from 3.6 divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2007 to 3.5 divorces per 1,000 in 2008 to 3.4 divorces per 1,000 Americans in 2009.” As fewer couples are getting divorced – presumably because of the tremendous cost associated with the dissolution of a household – fewer new households are being formed, so fewer goods are being consumed. He concludes rather spuriously that one solution to the current recession is for more Americans to get divorced. He writes: “That’s why I, at least, will be rooting for more marriages to fail in 2012.” Yikes.
Setting aside the “correlation vs. causation” alarm bells triggered by his conclusion, Yglesias’s view of marriage as a purely economic good – he concedes that a married couple living together is “more efficient” than two people living alone – misses the “softer” benefits of the intact married family. While MARRI has shown that the family has a huge positive impact on the American economy in productive value alone and a recent estimation of an equivalent salary for a homemaker’s services was found to be almost $100,000, the all-encompassing picture of a productive household is not only measured in dollars and cents. In his essay “Feminism, the Body, and the Machine,” agrarian author Wendell Berry writes about how the consumerist anti-ideal of marriage has caused a separation between men and women, husbands and wives. Traced to the devaluation of care for hearth and home for both men and women, the culture’s profound individualism disdains the value of a productive household and looks only to the ways the disconnected members of the family can compete against each other on the market as worthwhile. Now, working inside the home generates the question “But what do you do?” Berry writes: “By this [feminists] invariably mean that there is something better to do than to make one’s marriage and household, and by better they invariably mean ‘employment outside the home.’”
This attitude, Berry argues, removes a sense of belonging from the marriage, for both husband and wife and their children. MARRI’s research has shown that a sense of belonging is essential to a child’s success in school, financial well-being, and avoidance of out-of-wedlock births.  Children from intact families are less likely to get expelled or suspended from school or commit theft and are, in general, more socially developed. Divorce harms the next generation in manifold ways. The family’s functioning as a household, not simply as disparate silos of production for the national economy, has profound implications for local community and society at large. An ordered oikos means a more harmonious polis.
Yglesias sees the tenuous link between divorce and an improving economy as something worth pursuing, but he does not consider the long term implications for a breakdown in society beginning at its most basic level: the family economy. A generation of limited connectedness will not aid an ailing economy. Perhaps what the national economy needs is a new “romance of thrift” and knowledge of the true micro-economy, as G.K. Chesterton lauded, found in the houses on Main Street, not the banks on Wall Street. This vision is inextricably linked to the intact married family in which, Berry writes, “‘mine’ is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as ‘ours.’”

A Selfish Dream

family, human capital, reproductive technology, sexuality No comments
By MaryAnn McCabe, Intern
At modamily.comthey advertise that they “bring your dream to life.” They state that “[t]he desire to become a parent is why single men and women use Modamily, but there is nothing preventing the development of a relationship. Our primary goal is to create a community for great potential parents that removes the stress and pressures associated with feeling that in order to be a parent one must find a spouse first.” Facilitating this sort of relationship could permanently skew the modern American’s perception of what family is.
 
“Modamily” and its ilk only have a market have their services, in large part, because young women have been convinced to give up on motherhood. Many have sacrificed a wedding, a husband, and children – and are left to resort to online co-parenting shopping.
 
Modamily allows you to choose your preferred method of conception (natural or artificial). Hypothetically, you could have intercourse with someone whom you meet on Modamily and believe would make a great co-parent. You might repeatedly “try” and fail to conceive. A man who has had a vasectomy (or STDs!) could potentially use the site for the sole purpose of finding ready sexual partners. This is a legitimate possibility, but the site does not protect against it. Modamily states that it “DOES NOT CONDUCT BACKGROUND CHECKS OR OTHERWISE SCREEN USERS OF THE WEBSITE IN ANY WAY.” The possibilities are both endless and terrifying.
 
Women’s peak fertility window is short (ages 22 to 26). Work, however, isn’t going anywhere. It is okay to press the “pause” button on work. Furthermore, while many women think raising children is a waste of time, a stay-at-home mother’s work contributes a lot to society. James J. Heckman, who is considered to be among the ten most influential economists in the world, wrote a paper titled Formulating, Identifying and estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation.  It identifies the scale of factors by estimating their effects on adult outcomes. Parental inputs have different effects at different stages of a child’s life. When a person leaves college to enter the workforce, there is a significant difference between someone whose parents invested a lot of time in them versus someone whose parents did not. There is a roughly thirty percent increase on earnings for young men and women graduating college whose parents invested their time in them. The median personal income is roughly $32,000.Thirty percent of $32,000 is $9,600. That figure is staggering! It means that if parents take their time and invest it in their child, he/she comes out of the college running with an average of $9,600 more annually then his/her peers! Stay-at-home mothers are at a particular advantage when it comes to investing time in their children.
 
In the end, Modamily’s purpose is to facilitate a selfish dream. They are selling a solution to childlessness that is ultimately harmful to all concerned.  As women we need to take personal responsibility for our fertility and decide whether it’s truly worth it to put off having children in order to pursue quick success at work.
 
For more on the importance of intact family life, visit www.marri.us.

The Dismissal of the Stay-at-Home Parent

Alexis de Tocqueville, culture, family, marriage, mothers, news No comments
By MARRI Interns
A piece by Molly Worthen for Slate on Michelle Bachmann raised the question whether the GOP could become the party of the working mother. According to the article,

Bachmann’s story is not a pitch for a return to a postwar arcadia of fixed gender roles in little boxes made of ticky-tacky. Instead, she casts herself as an icon of American working womanhood, a “career woman” whose calling and identity are not clouded by the “faddish fog of ‘feminism,’” but are instead the result of real-life experience, Midwestern pragmatism, and Christian faith. Secular feminists have long dismissed the women of the Christian right as a mob of Hillary-hating homemakers. What they haven’t noticed is that, for the past few decades, American conservatives have been building the case that the GOP is no longer the party of Betty Draper—it’s the party of the working mom.

The recognition and understanding of the importance of family over individual wants and needs is sorely missing in our society. Throughout his profound book, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the importance of religion and family. Tocqueville praised the Christianity of the American settlers and colonists, because their faith was so highly conducive to democratic and republic principles and ideals.[1]
While there is no problem with the GOP being the party of the working mom, there tends to be a disregard and even eschewing of mothers and even fathers who stay at home, as made evident in this article. Throughout western society, specifically American society, mass media has continuously attacked and looked down upon parents who stay home to care for their family. The role of the stay-at-home parent has become viewed as unnecessary in the social zeitgeist of modernity.
Society ought to adjust its perception of the stay-at-home parent. The role of the stay-at-home mother or father is arguably more important than that of the spouse who enters the workforce, because the parent who stays at home maintains the household and raises the children. This is why Tocqueville went as far as to say that “it is the woman who makes the mores.”[2] In Tocqueville’s mind, mores were perhaps the greatest component to maintaining the greatness of American democracy, because he believed them to be the “whole moral and intellectual state of a people.”[3] Without someone to instill virtue and habits into children at home, the family resigns this authority to the state or some other institution or secular influence. Therefore, while entering the workforce should not be discouraged, the value and significance of taking time to ensure one’s children are on the right path should not be disdained or looked down upon as something old-fashioned or insignificant.
[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 275
[2] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 279
[3] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. Translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 275

Football, Fatherhood, and Religion

child well-being, family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments
By MARRI Interns
 
The joy caused by the advent of the Super Bowl this Sunday quickly transforms into melancholy for many men who acknowledge with lamentation that the Super Bowl marks the termination of football season. How ought those men to spend those superfluous hours on Sunday that were previously occupied with football? A trove of social science research suggests quite strongly that it might be best for them, for their marriage, and for their children to head to church.
A number of prominent Evangelical leaders are rediscovering the importance of appealing to men to return to involvement in the church. Dr. John Piper’s 2012 Pastors Conference is entitled “God, Manhood, and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church of Seattle has long been an ardent advocate of masculine maturity exemplified through religious attendance and participation.
Perhaps this is all of no importance. Perhaps it is just another attempt by several pastors to fill their pews. Or perhaps these men are on to something far more significant about the nature and benefits of male participation in the life of the church. And indeed, it is this latter proposition that seems to be vindicated by much of the social science research that MARRI and others are doing. The social science bears out that it is not only ministry leaders who have reason to champion male reengagement with the church; male church attendance correlates with significant benefits for society as a whole, since it contributes to the stability of the family and the success of children.
These societal benefits are observed by a large number of researchers, among whom are W. Bradford Wilcox, whose book “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands” (U Chicago Press, 2004) treats this subject in great detail. Constraining his research only to a comparison between Conservative Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and fathers with no religious affiliation, Wilcox presents detailed evidence showing that Conservative Protestants are more likely to be involved fathers and loving husbands than are those of no religious affiliation at all: 

Conservative Protestant married men with children are consistently more active and expressive with their children than unaffiliated men and are often more engaged with their children than mainline Protestant fathers. Furthermore, conservative Protestant family men are more likely than unaffiliated men to do positive emotion work in their marriages and are more consistently engaged emotionally in their marriages than mainline men. So the charges that conservative Protestantism fosters authoritarian and other stereotypical displays of masculinity among its family are overdrawn. [emphasis added]

Dr. Wilcox’s research shows that the impact of religion on family life is significant and well worth detailed study. That is why, in a forthcoming paper on the Effects of Religion on Marriage, MARRI presents a comprehensive picture of the benefits for marriage that accrue when partners participate in religious activity (particularly joint weekly worship). The forthcoming paper analyzes the effects of religion on marriage from a number of angles. MARRI’s Mapping America products virtually unanimously support the assertion that religion strengthens marriage in a number of significant and variegated ways.

So men, for the sake of your wife and your children, go to church this Sunday. Besides, unless your pastor is particularly long-winded, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl starts.

What’s So Wrong with Polygamy?: Part 2

Christianity, family, marriage, monogamy, news, Pat Fagan, polygamy, religion, social institutions No comments

By Pat Fagan

A response to the conclusion in Libby Copeland’s piece for Slate on the effects of polygamy and monogamous marriage: “Is Polygamy Really So Awful?”:

Ms. Copeland concludes that “Christianity may have brought monogamy to Europe and many other places, but those cultures succeeded because monogamy happened to suit them. In other words, as far as social evolution is concerned, the best form of marriage for a given society isn’t really about what’s moral, but what works.”

Libby Copeland’s concluding statement (that monogamy is best for society because it works, not because it is moral) gets the causation backwards: Monogamy works because it is moral. Christ gave his disciples tough standards in marriage– so tough his disciples’ initial reaction was “In that case, it is better for man not to marry.” Nevertheless, Christ prevailed and his disciples embraced this moral doctrine — and gave it as a gift to Western Civilization, not because it works (though it does), but because Christ so instructed (and still does, though Christians today on marriage — as in many times in the past on different aspects of Christ’s teachings — are very lax in obeying and following him).

There is a unity in Christian teaching, and its fruits come out repeatedly, in myriad ways: the good of women, of children, of the poor, and of the sick are just a few (and all its fruits are good for society– though, again, this is not why they are done). Monogamous marriage is just another in a long list of gifts to the West, and to mankind at large. We took it so much for granted we never realized it, until it started to fade. But ultimately it is not marriage that is failing, but Christians. Marriage of its nature does not fail — people flourish in marriage, when they live it. It works, but it takes moral effort. Christians would say it takes more at times: lots of grace and effort.

What’s So Wrong with Polygamy?

child well-being, children, crime, culture, family, fathers, human capital, marriage, monogamy, news, polygamy, social institutions, women No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Libby Copeland writes for Slate on the effects of polygamy and monogamous marriage on crime in “Is Polygamy Really So Awful?” While we disagree with Ms. Copeland’s conclusion (that the best form of union for a society is best not because it is moral, but because it “works”), the research she references in her piece is extremely interesting. Read along:

History suggests that [plural marriage] is [harmful]. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. The Canadian researchers are really talking about polygyny, which is the term for one man with multiple wives, and which is by far the most common expression of polygamy. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.

“Monogamous marriage reduces crime,” Henrich and colleagues write, pulling together studies showing that polygynous societies create large numbers of unmarried men, whose presence is correlated with increased rates of rape, theft, murder, and substance abuse. According to Henrich, the problem with unmarried men appears to come primarily from their lack of investment in family life and in children. Young men without futures tend to engage in riskier behaviors because they have less to lose. And, too, they may engage in certain crimes to get wives—stealing to amass enough wealth to attract women, or kidnapping other men’s wives.

Ms. Copeland also addresses the effects polygamy produces for individual men, women, and children. These effects are consistently negative:

That polygyny is bad for women is not necessarily intuitive. As economist Robert H. Frank has pointed outwomen in polygynist marriages should have more power because they’re in greater demand, and men should wind up changing more diapers. But historically, polygamy has proved to be yet another setup that [harms] the XX set. Because there are never enough of them to go around, they wind up being married off younger. Brothers and fathers, realizing how valuable their female relations are, tend to control them more. And, as one would expect, polygynous households foster jealousy and conflict among co-wives. Ethnographic surveys of 69 polygamous cultures “reveals no case where co-wife relations could be described as harmonious,” Henrich writes, with what must be a good dose of understatement.

Children, too, appear to suffer in polygamous cultures. Henrich examines a study comparing 19th-century Mormon households, 45 of them headed by wealthy men, generally with multiple wives, and 45 headed by poorer men, generally with one wife each. What’s surprising is that the children of the poorer men actually fared better, proving more likely to survive to age 15. Granted, this is a small study, but it’s consistent with other studies, including one from Africa showing that the children of monogamous households tend to do better than those from polygynous households in the same communities. Why? Some scholars suspect that polygyny may discourage paternal investment. Men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin, and to make things worse, they’re compiling resources to attract their next wives instead of using it on their existing families.

For more on the benefits of intact, monogamous marriage for society and individuals, visit www.marri.us.

Belonging and Rejection, State by State

child well-being, family, MARRI, marriage, social institutions, social policy No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

We at MARRI have broken down the data from the Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection by state, and are pleased to present you with the Index of Family Belonging and Rejection: State by State (2011).

From State by State:

This version of the Index is a breakdown, state by state, of the data published in that 2011 Index. Each page compares individual state performance on various child outcomes (high school graduation rate, eighth grade NAEP reading scores, child poverty, and births to unmarried teenagers). This permits the comparison of each state to the weakest and strongest states in each outcome category. Because social policy is executed at the state level, a breakdown of this data state by state is natural and fitting.

We hope that this version of the Index will be informative to both state legislators and citizens.

How Divorce Hurts Children

child well-being, crime, divorce, education, family, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

MARRI’s latest Research Synthesis paper, The Effects of Divorce on Children, discusses the myriad ways in which divorce directly and indirectly hurts children.

Each year, over a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. Divorce causes irreparable harm to all involved, but most especially to the children. Though it might be shown to benefit some individuals in some individual cases, over all it causes a temporary decrease in an individual’s quality of life and puts some “on a downward trajectory from which they might never fully recover.”[1]

The paper discusses divorce’s effects across six categories:

· Family: The parent-child relationship is weakened, and children’s perception of their ability (as well as their actual ability) to develop and commit to strong, healthy romantic relationships is damaged.

· Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.

· Education: Children’s learning capacity and educational attainment are both diminished.

· The marketplace: Household income falls and children’s individual earning capacity is cut deeply.

· Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.

· Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.

 

Math, Marriage, and Church- What’s the Connection?

children, education, family, MARRI, marriage, religion, single parents No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Our latest Mapping America (110: Children’s Peabody Individual Achievement Test math percentile norms) shows that children who attend church weekly or more often and who are raised in intact families rank in the highest PIAT math percentiles.

The strongest effects appear to proceed from family structure: children raised in intact married families average in the 54th percentile, while children raised in cohabiting stepfamilies or always-single parent families score the worst, averaging in the 27th percentile.

Keep tabs on marri.frc.org for more Mapping America productions!