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. __________________ 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 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.
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.
When it comes to relationships, at times it’s difficult to determine whose advice to take to heart and whose to ignore. While I don’t consider myself an authority on the subject, I don’t think I’ll meet much resistance when I say that romantic comedies are not a fount of realistic or wise counsel.
Case in point: “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” The film was a major hit when it premiered in 1994; it was the highest-grossing British film to that point and received warm praise from critics. The story is set in Englandand follows a set of seven or eight single friends as they attend weddings and funerals. Among them is charmingly awkward and bumbling Charles, played by Hugh Grant.
At the first wedding, Charles meets a beautiful American woman named Carrie, played by Andie McDowell. The pair spend the night together, after which she returns home to America. They are intimate a few other times, even after she becomes engaged to another man. I’ll spare you a full plot synopsis, but when the two get around to discussing their sexual history, Charles reveals that he has had relations with several women. This, however, is nothing to Carrie’s admitted 33 sexual conquests.
The film ends on Charles’s wedding day. Carrie is in attendance and we find she is already separated from her husband. Charles abandons his bride at the altar and asks Carrie, “Do you think…you might agree not to marry me? And do you think not being married to me might maybe be something you could consider doing for the rest of your life?” Carrie responds, “I do.” The film ends in a montage of happy photos, including a shot of Charles, Carrie, and a baby boy.
What the plot of “Four Weddings” implies is that it’s possible to have dozens of sexual liaisons without slowly destroying your ability to have a healthy relationship. Carrie is physically intimate with 33 men over the course of her lifetime (as far as we can tell), but this isn’t portrayed as detrimental to her ability to settle down with the right man.
Unfortunately, reality is grimmer than the movies. The charts at this link—based on a large data sample in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth—depict a woman’s likelihood to be in a stable marriage five years to ten years after her wedding day. Though Carrie and Charles do not actually marry, the lesson is clear: one’s statistical likelihood of enjoying a stable relationship without committing to sexual purity is hardly as rosy as “Four Weddings” represents it.
The second falsehood is the film’s assertion that cohabitation is the functional equivalent of marriage. If one’s odds of marital stability after a lifetime of promiscuity are bleak, consider that cohabiting relationships last around one year in the United States—even in France, Britain’s neighbor, the average cohabitation lasts only four years.Lastly, Carrie and Charles have a baby. If unmarried cohabitation is not the lifetime of personally defined bliss that they expect it will be, she will likely end up a single mother. This family structure brings with it all sorts of difficulties, but the long and short of them is that children raised in single-mother homes have to grapple with obstacles that children born into intact, married families struggle with less.
What do you think? Do you think Carrie and Charles really live happily ever after, or do they fall in line with the trends above once the cameras quit rolling?
 Patrick Heuveline and Jeffrey Timberlake, “The Role of Cohabitation in Family Formation: The United States in Comparative Perspective,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 66, no. 5 (2004): 1223.
We all like to believe that, as unique individuals, we’re masters of our own destiny and originals in our own right. We may still cling to this privilege in the U.S., but Austrians have officially lost the dispensation, at least with regard to their likelihood to marry and bear children.
Caroline Berghammer of the Vienna Institute of Demography, through analysis of the 2008-2009 Austrian Generations and Gender Survey, charted family life paths and individual likelihood of choosing them, based on personal religiosity, family size growing up, and other factors. (Because Austria’s religious population is mostly Catholic, Berghammer only includes Catholics in her “religious” category.)
This chart lays out the most common “family life paths” in Austria, among the men and women included in the study who were between the ages of 40 and 45. The numbers represent how many children a person has, and the colors indicate a person’s relationship status.
Relaxing a little the age rigidity of these life-paths, she found that the largest proportion of the Austrian population (19.1%) chooses never to have children and to live in one cohabiting relationship after another (she calls this “sequential cohabitation”). The smallest proportion (6%) chooses traditional parenthood—direct marriage, no cohabitation—with three or more children.
Berghammer found that those who attend Mass monthly or weekly are more likely to marry directly, without cohabiting, and to have at least two children. She also found that a person’s odds of cohabiting sequentially (versus his likelihood to follow the most common life path—cohabiting, eventually marrying and having two kids along the way) are halved if they attend religious services.
Those who don’t claim any religion are 87% more likely than Roman Catholics to have children outside of marriage. Additionally, for every sibling a person has, he or she is 29% more likely to choose traditional parenthood and to have three or more children rather than the aforementioned “most common life path.”
Notably, people who consider themselves religious but don’t regularly attend church don’t seem to differ much from those who don’t consider themselves religious.
Figures and chart: Caroline Berghammer, “Family life trajectories and religiosity in Austria,” August 2010 draft version- later published in the European Sociological Review (2010).
Despite critiques of the U.N.’s world population predictions, a recent Wall Street Journal article by Jonathan Last could have gone even further in pointing out how bleak the developed world’s demographic picture is.
This past May, the U.N. released its latest report on world demographics, saying that Italy, Poland, and the European continent as a whole, have rosy demographic futures. Mr. Last correctly takes issue with these predictions, saying that in order for the world to actually achieve the U.N.’s projected numbers, one big assumption had to be made: That “starting tomorrow, every country in the world with fertility below the replacement rate of 2.1 will increase its fertility. And this rise will continue unabated, year after year, until every First Worldcountry has a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) near replacement.”
Mr. Last reasons that this projection is dubious, in part because the U.N.’s model was based on data taken from a small group of mostly Scandinavian countries that have “recovered (sort of)” from sub-replacement fertility. Last highlights Sweden, saying that its story is a complicated one, “involving pro-natalist policies, culture and not a little luck”—but somehow, the U.N. assumes that all low-fertility, industrialized countries from Russia to Italy to South Korea will follow this pattern.
While Last does highlight the dubious nature of the U.N.’s projections, he has not gone far enough in emphasizing exactly how incorrect they are. His suspicion was correct that other countries will not necessarily follow Scandinavia’s supposed trend. Though it (reportedly) experienced positive fertility results, even if Sweden’s success were based on culture and policies, these are not universal. However, the fact of the matter is that any projection made based off the “success” of these countries will be incorrect.
Focusing on Sweden, the story of their fertility rates must differentiate between the fertility of nationals and the fertility of foreigners (immigrants). According to the Vienna Institute of Demographics, from 1986-2008, the increase in the total fertility rate of Sweden’s nationals went from 1.76 to 1.85, a difference that is statistically insignificant, and is actually because the ‘dip’ to 1.76 in 1986 was a TFR underestimate! The total fertility rate of foreigners ranged from 2.24 (1986) to 2.55 (2008)—a range that is above both the replacement level, as well as the level of Swedish nationals. Any increase in Swedish fertility levels must be understood with this division in mind, with the result that Swedenwould not experience population increases of its young for any reason other than immigration. This casts the U.N.’s model into question, as immigration is not a true account for the increase in a country’s fertility. Furthermore, immigration depends strongly on (relative) economic factors, something that varies between countries and is difficult to predict.
Additionally, we all know that Romewas not built in a day—it takes around 20 years before our newborns are ready to enter society as adults, and cultures change about as quickly. Why then should the U.N. anticipate that Italy, Poland, Japanor any country would change overnight? There is no reason to suspect that we will see a drastic positive change in the fertility habits of individuals (and, thus, nations) any time soon. On the contrary, anti-natal trends are alive and well in the West when cultures are spawning no-kids-allowed movements: Malaysia airlines banned babies from many of their first-class cabins; McDain’s Restaurant, in Pennsylvania no longer allows children under 6 to dine; Double Windsor bar in New York bans babies after 5 p.m.; a Central Florida homeowners association is considering a ban on children from playing outside, and the examples continue. All of this is strong indication that the trend we’re seeing, and one modeled by more serious demographers than those at the U.N., is here to stay.
We are still slouching into a demographic crisis, and Mr. Last is right to highlight economic concerns that will spin off from low fertility rates.
The continual slowdown in America’s GDP growth is explained by the decrease in marriage and families that are focused on children. As a nation, we’re no longer concerned with investing in our future by investing in the next generation. Our newest paper (linked above) demonstrates how stable married families and national economic growth are related.
What’s more, Our Fiscal Crisis is the first in a series of papers documenting original MARRI research about the development of skills, competencies, and know-how [human capital] across generations, and the family’s role in forming that human capital. In these papers, we’ll show how important human capital is to our modern, knowledge-driven economy and how indispensable the stable, married family is to economic prosperity. Be on the lookout for the rest of the series (to be released soon)!
Edward Glaeser in More Americans Need to Work, and to Marry (Bloomberg) writes, “America’s economy has long benefited from its well-functioning labor markets. Our high marriage and fertility rates boost demand for housing, and all its associated expenditures, and steady population growth makes it far easier to pay for social programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.”
Following close on his heels, Marriage and Economic Well-Being reviews the literature on the impact of marriage on income and savings. Our review of the available research shows that married families earn more income, hold more net worth, are less likely to be poor, and enjoy more child economic well-being and mobility than other family structures. For example, only 5.8 percent of married families were living in poverty in 2009, whereas an estimated 30 to 50 percent of single-mother families are impoverished.
The paper closes, “There is an intimate relationship between our income and wealth and our sexual culture. They rise or fall together, and thus, strange though it may seem, there is a significant connection between our sexual habits and our national economic strengths and weaknesses.”
Our social policies push against the intact married family. Our elites in academia and Hollywood and the White House push against the intact married family. Our ordinary grandparents knew more about how to have a good society than the White House or Congress does today.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Pat Fagan, and I am the Director and Senior Fellow of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), a project of the Family Research Council. We at MARRI are working to equip scholars, parents, pastors, journalists, and the educated layman with social science products they can use to reshape the debate on where our county is heading in its social capacities. We are interested in equipping all with the data needed to defend and win full freedom for faith and family.
On this blog, I will discuss new social science books and research, as well as our latest synthesis papers and other research from MARRI. Our goal at MARRI is to bring the two great loves to the fore in the social sciences—the love of spouses for one another (closest neighbor) and the love for God. These two loves drive society’s growth or decay, and therefore have profound public policy implications. Our federal data system permits us to track these (somewhat primitively, but we track them nonetheless).
I’ll be heading to Australia in two days for the annual national conference of the Australian Family Association and to meet with Australian family leaders in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Stay tuned for stories, photos, and information from down under!