How Society Works

How Society Works

Marriage, Contraception, and Where the West is Headed

family, MARRI, marriage, religion, US population, world population No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

New MARRI Original Research is out! “Marriage, Contraception & The Future of Western Peoples” shows that the peoples of the West are depleting because of their adoption of extra-marital sexual norms and simultaneous rejection of fertility. The generations to come will decrease exponentially as a direct effect of declining trends in fertility and declining desires and expectations to have children, both in the generation currently having children, and in future generations. This trend is of one cloth with the West’s shift in economic orientation from family enterprise to individualist labor activity, and its simultaneous movement from religious to secular social values. Remediation lies in re-adopting stable marriage as a societal norm and in rejecting the non-sustainable model of society, which discards religion, traditional sexual norms, and lifelong commitment, and replacing it with a less secular, more traditional, family-oriented life.

The Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection

child well-being, commitment, family, MARRI, marriage, poverty, single parents, youth No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Did you miss the release of our Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection? You can read it hereand watch the webcast of the event here!

An excerpt from the Index’s introduction:

The Index of Family Belonging was 45.8 percent with a corresponding Family Rejection score of 54.2 percent for the United States for the year 2009. The action of parents determines the belonging or rejection score: whether they marry and belong to each other, or they reject one another through divorce or otherwise. Rejection leaves children without married parents committed to one another and to the intact family in which the child was to be brought up.

Index Highlights:

· Only 45.8% of American children reach the age of 17 with both their biological parents married (since before or around the time of their birth).
· The Index of Family Belonging is highest in the Northeast (49.6%) and lowest in the South (41.8%).
· Minnesota (57%) and Utah (56.5%) have the highest Index of Family Belonging values of all the states; Mississippi (34%) has the lowest. The District of Columbia had an abysmally low Family Belonging Index score of 18.6%.
· Family Belonging is strongest among Asians (65.8%) and weakest among Blacks (16.7%).
· Once differences across states in Family Belonging, adult educational attainment, foreign-born residents, and population density are taken into account, differences in state racial and ethnic composition are no longer significant in accounting for variations in child well-being outcomes (the exception being that the proportion of Hispanics in a state is very significant in determining the number of births to unmarried teenagers).
· While the effects of government spending on high school graduation rates are curvilinear and offer diminishing returns, family belonging is positively and significantly associated with high school graduation rates.
· Family belonging and child poverty are significantly, inversely related: States with high Index values have relatively low child poverty rates, and vice versa.
· There is a significant, inverse relationship between family belonging and the incidence of births to unmarried teenagers.

Kicking Bad Habits: Does Fatherhood Help?

crime, family, fathers, men's health, social science No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Science Daily reported that a 19-year study published recently in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that becoming a father lessens a man’s likelihood to consume alcohol or tobacco or to commit crimes, apart from the process of maturing with age.

The authors found that men who became fathers well into their 20s or 30s were more likely to kick their habits than men who became fathers in their teens or early 20s.

One of the authors, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University David Kerr, said they drew encouraging information from their research: “This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior…This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes.”

National Adoption Month and the President’s Proclamation

adoption, children, family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, mothers, same-sex parenting No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

President Obama has issued an order proclaiming November 2011 as National Adoption Month in which he mentioned LGBT families: “Adoptive families come in all forms,” the order says. “With so many children waiting for loving homes, it is important to ensure that all qualified caregivers are given the opportunity to serve as adoptive parents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or marital status.”

National Adoption Month is something we at MARRI celebrate with the rest of the country. We believe that the choice to raise a child not biologically one’s own is a heroic decision, and we honor adoptive parents, and biological mothers and fathers who give their children for adoption, in their efforts to give children a second chance. See our research synthesis paper, Adoption Works Well, for a review of the literature on the benefits of adoption for children, biological parents, and adoptive parents alike.

That said, not all family structures are equally effective at raising children. As shown again and again by Mapping America, as well as Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment and our research synthesis paper Marriage and Economic Well-Being, intact married families, with a mother and a father, that worship weekly produce the best results for their children—educationally, financially, religiously, and otherwise.

What do you think? Do you think family structure itself is part of what makes a potential adoptive parent a “qualified caregiver”? Let us know what you think in the comments section!

If the Family Fails, Can Students Pass?

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

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

In a Bloomberg editorial published Sunday regarding No Child Left Behind, the editorial board criticized Congress, the Department of Education, and the Obama Administration for failing to bring NCLB’s requirements up to date (or failing to provide direction on how to do so). The President has issued waivers to states discharging them from NCLB’s requirement that they meet a 100 percent reading and math proficiency standard; the DOE explains that states will, instead, make their own standards.
The writers of the editorial go on to write about the need for a universal benchmark and effective accountability measures and about the benefit of incentives, a discussion of whose merits all belong in another blog. The point is that all of these measures and plans address student academic achievement from far too shallow an angle. The education establishment is trying to make sure students pass while disregarding the fact that their families are failing.

All of the best incentives and goals in the world can only work so effectively if American students are not enjoying the stability and care at home that they deserve. As we illustrate in one of our most recent productions, Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment, the intact family provides students with the environment they need to achieve. Students from intact families achieve more in terms of purely academic measures and in terms of school participation and behavior.

Our latest Mapping America production, Mapping America 108: CAT-ASVAB Math/VerbalPercentile Scores, underscores the importance of family structure. The ASVAB,or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, is an examination that determines whether or not an individual is qualified to enlist in the U.S. armed forces or to serve it in various capacities. Our research shows that those from intact, married families earn higher scores than those in all other family structures. Additionally, those who attend church at least weekly do better than those who attend at least monthly, less than monthly, or never. Those who both come from an intact family and attend church at least weekly do the best.
The Bloomberg article closes with a list of questions: “Why do test results often vary widely within individual schools? Why do many minority students fare poorly even at high-achieving suburban schools?” The answers lie at home. (For more on the strength of the family among minorities, see the 2010 U.S. Index of Belonging and Rejection.) If the family fails, a student’s chances of passing drop.

More on Chastity: Sex by the Numbers

feminism, Hollywood, marriage, sexual revolution, sexuality, women No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

If you recall from my blog post on the romantic comedy “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” the characters’ number of past sexual partners doesn’t figure largely in the overall plot of the story. I was surprised, however, to read a few days ago about a film whose storyline is entirely based around the issue.

Meet Ally Darling, the fictitious star of What’s Your Number?. Ms. Darling is, as the tagline says, “looking for the best ex of her life.” The film’s trailer shows her out with a group of girlfriends when one announces that 96 percent of American women who have had twenty or more sexual partners will be unable to marry. We’ll flash back here to data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth (which we also cited in the blog post mentioned above).
The data is pretty telling: Only 18-20 percent of women with Ally’s sexual history are able to marry stably. The problem is, the film won’t show this. Perhaps her wedding is shown at the end of the flick in a happy montage of photos, as in “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” but what happens after the credits are done rolling and the catchy music is off?

Even worse than the apparent trend of portraying fantasy in movies as reality is the fact that many women apparently still don’t believe that sexual history or chastity matter at all when it comes to future happiness. I actually first heard about “What’s Your Number?” from the blog Feministing. According to the author of the post that covered the movie,

[T]he bottom line is if women are upset about how many people they have had sex with, it is either because the sex has been terrible or because of external social pressure and faux-moral judgement [sic]. Despite what the anti-sex set may believe, how much sex you have today, does not impact your ability to be in a successful relationship later” [emphasis added].

What do you think? In light of the data above, what can we do to share the importance of preserving intimacy for marriage?

Crime and Punishment or Church

crime, prostitution, religion, youth No comments
By Julia Kiewit, Staff
In Bay Minette, Alabama, non-violent offenders are now given a choice: to work off their fines in jail and pay a fine, or go to church every Sunday for a year. So what will it be in this either/or situation of prison and church?

How about just church and no prison? The Alabama law recognizes the powerful influence of religion and church attendance, and rightly so. Studies show that only 5% of children who currently sit in the pews at least once a weekare at some point arrested, compared with 11% of those who never attend church. Even a little religious attendance helps behavior: only 7% of children who attend church at least once a month are arrested.

Not only does religion work to minimize the risk of arrest: Byron Johnson of Baylor University and colleaguesexamined data from the National Youth Survey, and they found that the greater the religious involvement of black youth, the lower is the occurrence of “serious crime,” including felony assault, robbery, felony theft, prostitution, and selling drugs.

We will see how effective the Alabama law is at reforming or dissuading criminals in the future. But the numbers tell the story: religious attendance is beneficial for society.

Making the Grade

education, family, MARRI, marriage No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff
Last week, the College Board reported that 57 percent of the college-bound class of 2011 did not meet the SAT’s College and Career Readiness Benchmark. The low proportion of students meeting this threshold, which is designed to indicate “the level of academic preparedness associated with a high likelihood of college success and completion,” comes as no surprise to those who understand where academic capacity really grows: the intact family.
When comparing the academic performance of children reared in intact families to those in non-intact families, it becomes inescapably clear that those raised in intact families do better. Our latest MARRI project, “Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment,” demonstrates this on the basis of differences in both raw student achievement (e.g. test scores, GPA) and in student behavior (e.g. attendance, engagement, suspension from school).
“Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment” also shows that different family structures generate different environments at home. For example, parents in intact families tend to have higher expectations for their children and to be more involved in their children’s education. They also tend to worship more and to have higher incomes, both of which facilitate strong academic outcomes.
Those who analyze the SATand the performance of students who take it will likely produce a variety of solutions to improve academic achievement in the U.S.These solutions may have merit, but the best way to ensure student success is to strengthen the family.

It Takes a Family Structure

abortion, family, fathers, marriage, men No comments

By Julia Kiewit, Staff

There are many factors that influence an individual’s views on life and family, particularly the sense of duty that men have when it comes to children. One study has found that men who father a child out of wedlock have varying responses to that child, based on their own family of origin. If the father grew up in a family that was on welfare, he is less likely to marry the baby’s mother.1 However, if he came from a family that did not need to receive welfare, he is more likely to marry her. Additionally, marriage makes a difference in deciding whether or not to keep a child, and presumably affects the amount of responsibility men are willing to accept. Married couples are much less likely to seek an abortion compared to other relationships. A Guttmacher survey found that cohabiting women accounted for 20.2% of women having an abortion (but make up only 5.8 of women of reproductive age). In contrast, married women only accounted for 18.4% of all induced abortions (but make up 49.9% of reproductive aged women).2

Region is also a predictor of a man’s response to life. The Intergenerational Panel Study of Parents and Children found that 18-year-olds who said that religion was important in their lives were less supportive of abortion, as well as premarital sex, than their peers who said religion was less important to them.3

MARRI’s series “Mapping America” looks at the effects of marriage and religion on various sociological outcomes, including the likelihood of fathers encouraging an abortion.
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1 Madeline Zavodny, “Do Men’s Characteristics Affect Whether a Nonmarital Pregnancy Results in Marriage?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61 (August 1999): 764-773.
2 S.K. Henshaw and K Kost, “Abortion Patients in 1994-1995: Characteristics and Contraceptive Use,” Family Planning Perspectives 28 (1996): 140.
3 L.D. Pearce and A. Thornton, “Religious Identity and Family Ideologies in the Transition to Adulthood,” Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2007): 1227-1243.

A Few Good Men

crime, education, marriage, men, religion, women, youth No comments
By Julia Kiewit, Staff
A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the plight that many—if not most–young black women face: the literal dearth of potential marriage partners. Ralph Richard Banks, himself a black man and law professor at Stanford University, spent time traveling the country, interviewing black women to hear their story and why black women have fewer marriage options. He ultimately concluded that there is a lack of competent and suitable black men to go with the numbers of educated and successful black women.

The two main problems with black men, Banks concludes, are incarceration and lack of education. Of the more than two million incarcerated men in the U.S., 40% of them are African-American, with more than 10% of this number made up of black men in their 20s and 30s.

Educationally (and, in turn, economically), black men also fall behind black women. According to Banks, by the time graduation rolls around, black women outnumber men 2 to 1. And for graduate school in 2008, there were 125,000 African-American women enrolled—compared to 58,000 men.

That there are too few black men who are the social equals of black women answers the “why” of the marriage situation. But there is a further, deeper reason behind why there are too few marriageable black men. This answer goes into the families of the black men themselves.

According to the General Social Survey, youths from always-married families are only 10% likely to be picked up or charged by the police, compared with 17% of youths from non-married families. Children from always-married families are only 13% likely to steal something, compared with 22% that only live with one parent, and 18.8% who live with never-married parents. Similarly, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, children who live with two married parents are 7.7% likely to shoplift, compared to 12% of children who live with only one parent.

Children from always-married families do better in school, as well, with a combined math and English GPA of 2.9, compared to 2.5 GPA of children from never-married families.

The religious attendance of families also makes a difference for children’s educational attainment. MARRI’s synthesis paper “Religious Practice and Educational Attainment” looks at the tremendous benefits of religion for education.

If children from married, two-parent families are less likely to commit crime, and more likely to have better educational outcomes, it is no wonder that the black family is falling behind. Only 17.4% of black children grew up in married, two-parent homes (compared with the national average of 45.4%; for comparison, 62% of Asians grow up in married, two-parent families). Statistically, these 17% of black children are the ones who will have the best life outcomes, but it is no wonder that there are so many black women looking for husbands. While the article suggests interracial marriage as a temporary solution for black women, if things are going to turn around for the long haul, the simple recipe is parents who keep their promises to one another.