How Society Works

How Society Works

Religious Influence of Parents on Children

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Parents’ religious practice benefits not only their children’s faith but also their well-being. This has become increasingly apparent over the last decade as research on religious practice has increased.  David Briggs of the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) illustrates five benefits of religious belief and worship on parents and teens:

The family that worships together supports one another: Youth who go to church with their parents appear more likely to experience higher psychological well-being throughout adolescence. The study analyzed data on 5,739 young people from the 1992–2006 waves of the Child and Young Adult Sample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

Building social skills and parental trust: Adolescents who converted from no religion to affiliating with a religious group were more likely to have higher social skills than those who left their faith. The study of 209 adolescents and their primary caregivers also found youth who held on to their faith scored higher than those who gave it up on measures of parental communication and trust as well as social competence.

Developing healthy relationships offline: College students who reported high levels of religious belief and practice were more likely to form strong relationships with peers and less likely to search online for porn or watch pornographic movies.

Finding ecstasy in all the right places: Young men who believe in God and practice their faith were less likely to abuse alcohol, smoke or take illegal drugs, according to a study analyzing data from a sample of 5,387 Swiss men approximately 20 years old. Being affiliated with a religion also predicted healthier choices in most cases.

Developing compassion amid privilege: Even young people fortunate enough to have all their material needs met can find resources to overcome the psychological malaise often associated with affluent teens, according to a new study.

Well-off adolescents who were highly religious and spiritual at age 18 were likely to hold on to a strong spiritual and religious life at age 24. This in turn was associated with fewer signs of depression, higher life satisfaction and greater compassion for others.

Benefits of freedom of religious expression in the workplace

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In a collaborative study with five professors from five different universities (Simon Fraser University, University of Maryland, University of Hawaii and Michigan State University), doctoral student Sooyeol Kim found that employees who openly discuss their religious beliefs at work are often happier and have higher job satisfaction than those employees who do not:
… employees who valued religion as a core part of their lives were more likely to disclose their religion in the workplace. Employees who felt pressure to assimilate in the workplace were less likely to disclose their religious identity, Kim said.
But most significantly, the researchers found that the employees who disclosed their religion in the workplace had several positive outcomes, including higher job satisfaction and higher perceived well-being.
“Disclosing your religion can be beneficial for employees and individual well-being,” Kim said. “When you try to hide your identity, you have to pretend or you have to lie to others, which can be stressful and negatively impact how you build relationships with co-workers.”

U.S. Military: Amongst Religious Hostility Suicide Rates Soar

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Over the last decade, the Armed Forces have become increasingly hostile to religious liberty and also have a record suicide rate. Restoring religious liberty and encouraging religious practice would significantly improve the mental well-being of our nation’s soldiers, as religious practice delivers fundamental benefits to mental well-being.
Threats to religious liberty in the Armed Forces have amplified in recent years. In June 2011 Christian prayer was banned at military funerals, and in September the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center declared, “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” The prayer and Bible bans were eventually reversed but other religious liberty violations have continued to emerge.  In 2012 the Army censored Catholic chaplains, and the Pennsylvania Army Reserve training document labeled Evangelical Christians and Catholics as “extremists.” In 2013 the Army ordered soldiers to remove crosses and steeples from a chapel in Afghanistan, and an Air Force officer was forced to remove a Bible from his desk because it “‘[might]’ appear that he was condoning a particular religion.” These are only “the tip of the iceberg”. Last Thanksgiving an Army chaplain was punished for telling his suicide-prevention class how his faith helped him counter depression, and this past May a Marine was sentenced to bad-conduct discharge for displaying three Bible verses at her work-station.
During this time of increased religious censorship, suicide rates amongst deployed soldiers and those who have never fought grew. In the last three years of World War II, the Army peaked at 10 suicides per 100,000 soldiers; between 1975 and 1986 the Army averaged 13 suicides per 100,000 soldiers; in 2011 the Army reported 23 suicides per 100,000 soldiers—more than twice the number of suicides during the World War II era. These suicides reflect a poignant truth: American soldiers struggling with mental difficulties are not adequately taken care of. 
Religious liberty is a requisite to ensuring that our service men and women are mentally healthy. MARRI research shows that religious worship is correlated with greater happiness, a greater sense of purpose in life, and a positive morale. More frequent religious attendance predicts less distress among adults, and membership in a religious community enhances coping skills. A review of more than 100 studies found that religious participation is associated with a reduced risk for depression, and 87 percent of studies surveyed concluded that religious practice correlates with a reduced incidence of suicide.

As hostility to religious practice grows in the military grows, depression and suicide rates are simultaneously reaching new heights. No secular course or counseling session can offer the consolation that religious practice provides. Furthermore it is free. If military commanders sincerely desire to improve the mental well-being of our country’s soldiers, they will not only allow our armed forces to freely worship God, but will even encourage it. 

Kids Count…Marriage Counts.

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The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) recently released its 2015 edition of Kids Count. This important annual study examines how the well-being of children changed between 2008 and 2013 in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. To get a fuller picture of child well-being, MARRI believes one must include family structure.

  • Kids Count 2015 shows numerous improvements in child well-being over the last five years, especially in education (reading and math proficiency) and health (declines in teen drug abuse and teen deaths). While these improvements are welcome news, the report also reported several declines.The portion of children in poverty and of children whose parents lack secure employment increased by 4% between 2008 and 2013. 
  • The proportion of children living in single-parent homes increased from 32% in 2008 to 35% in 2013.
  • In 2013, 34% of children in single-parent families were living in poverty verses 11% of children from married families.

For children, the first aspect of well-being is their family and whether it is intact or not.  Nothing shapes a child’s destiny as does her family. MARRI research has shown that children raised in single-parent families, as opposed to intact married families, are less likely to receive a high school degree. Likewise, children who experience parental divorce or separation are more likely to have health problems than those in intact married families. Those who grow up in non-intact married families are much more likely to be divorced or separated as adults than those who grew up in intact married families. And children from married, two parent families experience greater economic well-being than children raised in any other family structure, as the AECF report previously cited demonstrates.

Kids Count concludes, “With the right investments, we can provide all families and children with the opportunity to reach their full potential and, in the process, strengthen both our economy and our nation.” MARRI suggests that the most needed investment, for every child, is an always-intact married family.

Round Three, the Corruption Continues: Academia and Abortion

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The academic corruption MARRI previously described is not limited to same-sex marriage data: it is also present in abortion research. Studies repeatedly show that abortion inflicts mental and physical damage upon a sizeable proportion of women. Nevertheless, the American Psychological Association (APA) and similar professional organizations have refused to acknowledge this research, instead opting to cherry pick studies that support their pro-abortion policy agenda. Such an agenda is expected of Planned Parenthood; however, social science organizations are expected to serve the nation through a dispassionate search for the truth, letting the data do the talking.

The academy’s resistant response to David Fergusson’s research on the effects of abortion on mental health shows the distorting effects of abandoning scientific charter. Fergusson, who followed women over a 30-year period and controlled for over 30 variables, found that abortion can increase the risk of mental disorders. Fergusson, himself “pro-choice,” was already a much published and eminent researcher by the time of his first foray into the abortion field. He commented, “We went to four journals, which is very unusual for us – we normally get accepted the first time… I’m pro-choice but I’ve produced results which, if anything, favor a pro-life viewpoint… It’s obvious I’m not acting out of any agenda except to do reasonable science about a difficult problem.”  He is a true scientist.

In 2008, in an attempt to dismiss a significant number of studies confirming abortion’s link to mental disorders, the American Psychological Association assembled a “Special Task Force” of pro-abortion researchers to evaluate the evidence. To reach their pre-determined conclusion, researchers violated many scientific standards. When questioned, lead author of the Task Force was unwilling to release the data for re-analysis because “It would be very difficult to pull this information together.” Despite these shortcomings, academia holds the APA report as the gold standard of research in this field.

Similar biases have marginalized research on the effect of abortion on physical health. For instance, advances in molecular breast biology and epidemiological studies have repeatedly found a link between abortion and breast cancer. After reviewing and synthesizing the existing research in this field, MARRI concluded that induced abortion is an independent risk factor for breast cancer.  Still the National Cancer Institute refuses to acknowledge this clear evidence.

These professional organizations are expected to be “guardians of scientific standards,” and claim to be so. But by deliberately pursuing the academically corrupt practice of cherry picking data, they become agenda-driven organizations that conceal the truth about how women and their unborn babies are affected.

For example, the academy’s failure to publish research evenhandedly on abortion has made it much easier for Planned Parenthood to use women for their own monetary gain. Recently, the Center for Medical Progress released a video in which senior physicians of Planned Parenthood admit to performing abortions in the manner that most efficiently delivers the most profitable tissue/ organs, which are later sold. While haggling prices with potential tissue buyers, Dr. Mary Gatter, President of the Medical Directors’ Council of Planned Parenthood, laughed, “I want a Lamborghini!” It seems many directors of abortion centers treat the women coming to them as business opportunities for the extraction of the fetal body parts that they carry within them, rather than as vulnerable human beings. Needless to say, providing women with the best research-based information on the mental and physical risks associated with abortion would jeopardize Planned Parenthood’s access to these body parts.

Planned Parenthood has no incentive to tell women the truth about the risks of abortion, while academic organizations like the APA refuse to acknowledge robust social science data revealing these risks. They are both complicit in a collusion of silence. Compassionate care for women involves fully informing them about the procedures they undergo and the effects of those procedures; dispassionate social science begins with an objective evaluation of data and subsequent reporting of robust research. At this stage, sadly, the APA cannot be trusted to abide by these basic expectations. That is an abortion of the role of the social sciences.

Japan’s Foreboding Demographics: Lessons for America

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By Henry Potrykus

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta published an important paper a little while ago on “The Implications of a Graying Japan for Government Policy.”  The title rather understates demographics’ fiscal gravity.  The analysis within the paper does a better job.  Here I relate the findings to those of us here in the West in a four-part development: ‘context,’ ‘strengths,’ ‘weaknesses,’ and ‘implications.’  You might want to skip down to “implications” if you just want the highlights.  The ‘context’ to follow also makes for relatively easy reading.  ‘Strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ will not be for everyone.  They contain economics, which is a practical necessity – the paper is on economics.

Context

Japan is not the United States.  Critically, Japan did not have a post-war baby boom.  Instead, its realized family size was high just before the War.  This is the main way in which Japan is a forerunning first-world economy.  Germany and other Western European countries will follow Japan’s demographics, and then we’ll have our own run of it.

Japan had exceptionally strong trade surpluses (Current Account surpluses; like Germany does).  Remember worrying about Japan owning the US?  Worry about that anymore?  Even more important than that penchant for over-seas saving (which is being cashed-in on), is that Japan controls its own debt:  Japanese savers (future retirees) buy Japanese paper. 

Thus, as a demographics “policy experiment,” Japan might be considered an ideal case:  The fiscal picture – issuance and redemption of bonds; payout of pensions; and the whole fiscal balance sheet – is centrally manageable.  I am sure there are benefits to the US having the reserve currency of the world.  Control over federal bond auctions is not one of them.  (A lot of swaps have to be written between a lot of interested parties to “control” that market.)

Watching Tsunami footage also shows one how unified Japan is in caring for its elderly.  (In this case that means watching 60 year-olds take care of 80 year-olds.)  So, again – Japan has a relatively manageable problem.  By way of comparison, Western states see incipient riots over public pension changes.

Perhaps that’s not a perfectly fair comparison, but, in one way, Japan’s problem is more urgent; in another, it is less so. In the latter sense, Japan may just be able to smoothly reallocate and reduce its population’s consumption and so avert Argentina-like fiscal crises.  There is more on this in the ‘implications’ section.

Strengths

With this paper, finally, economists get demographics.  The paper models populations moving through the life cycle.  Cohorts are born, grow up, get to working, retire, and die. 

It should be obvious that when one wants to understand the fiscal picture of a state, enumerating aging populations is required:  The picture for entitlements (think Social Security and Medicare; Japan has its analogs) is determined by whom you tax (workers) and who receives remittances (retirees, who, except in special circumstances, have not yet died).  The fiscal picture for welfare states (like our own) is driven by their entitlements.  This holds especially for Japan.  (Allow me to throw our generous poverty programs in here, and the statement becomes general, and air-tight.)

Another “strength” is the simplicity and constancy by which the modelers treat the Japanese credit markets.  This will be controversial to some (in particular, the public behaves “non-Ricardian”).  What I find important is that interest rate spreads are held constant.  Rate spikes (“runs”) that might take place – perhaps at any time – are not considered.  (See below for other credit events.)  In this sense, the central bank helps the government manage its debt burden well

Weaknesses

Many economists will find the dynamic model, with its perfect foresight, etc., to be a strength of the paper’s analysis framework.  You say strength, I say assumption.  Certainly it is good to attempt to model how people will shift their behaviors (“dynamically”) to changes in government policy like pension generosity and tax increase.  Without further comment, let’s just say, “how do you know, quantitatively?”

Two quantitative parts of the analysis that are real, powerful factors in determining future fiscal economics are the rate of productivity growth (“total factor” productivity of the macro economy, irrespective of capital or labor contribution) and the fertility rate (rate of growth of the population). 

The analysts treat the first term optimistically.  I am being generous here (as they are, to Japan):  Japan had a “lost decade” in the 1990s, and the hoped-for productivity recovery didn’t materialize in the 2000s.  I link this phenomenon to demographics in “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital and Population Change.”  (The term “total factor” means, precisely, that it is not so-linked in other analyses.  The present analysis’ real departure is more subtle, however, again, because this work gets demographics “right.”)  So, then, Japan has had two lost decades.

Productivity (irrespective of capital and labor) is especially important in systems where capital is crowded-out by an all-consuming public sector (trust for a little while that I am not being alarmist here; we’ll return to it as we go into ‘implications’ below), and labor declines (a demographic hole).

So, optimistic views of productivity can help us gloss-over public-sector rapacity and labor collapse.  In other work I [and others] analyze on how labor collapse can be the harbinger of economic depression.  Other think tanks have spilt plenty of ink on public-sector encroachment.  Maybe I should weigh-in myself sometime.

If the first term is treated optimistically, the second term is treated fancifully.  Japan will rediscover its lost desire to have families, we are told.  Now, Japanese sociology deserves its own study, which I haven’t done yet!  But, closer to home, there are plenty of sociologically compelling reasons to ignore fairy tales of demographic recovery.  It is obvious that population replacement affects the fiscal picture, quantitatively.  (Sensitivities vary.  See the next paragraph and the ‘implications,’ below.)  But I have another, seriously wonkish point to make here:  The authors desire closed, solvable systems (in a very formal sense; they need so-called “transversality conditions”).  I think it’s time we jettison silly assumptions that dictate family recovery and start accepting the solution that asymptotes to zero.  The former is nowhere indicated by any of our real social policies anywhere.  Zero is a mathematically serious number.  It is fiscally serious too.

One will note that even without more reasonable demographics, the study still finds that there is nearly one pensioner for every working-age Japanese individual (by around 2090).  Let’s get into the ‘implications’ of that.

Implications

If Japan doesn’t reform its “Social Security” and “Medicare” system (they don’t use our terms), nor its tax system, they would have to raise consumption taxes to never-witnessed levels; likely beyond 55 percent. This must happen before 2040, which turns out to be an annus mirabilis – see below. 

That’s more than half of consumption, taxed away, if they just kick the can.  If Japan raises taxes quickly to the required level (by 2018; remember this is “quick” by public standards), that level “only” needs to be 35 percent or so.  The welfare-state paradises of Denmark and Finland have value-added taxes of about 25 percent.  Higher levels (still below the needed 35 percent) are hardly seen.  This, and the resistance to Prime Minister Abe’s comparatively small consumption tax increases, pretty much signals the infeasibility of this line of reckoning.

Obviously, what is going on here is that there are many retirees.  Workers need to be taxed as much to ensure enough money is transferred to keep the pensioners at their current (and expected) standard of living.  I have heard people say that this does not “necessarily” constitute an inter-generational inequity, but I personally find that to be a tough horse-pill to swallow.  I’ll let you decide; but let’s look into those inequities.

First, the study goes through other ways to balance the budget.  (The government is given the chance to do this in the long run; I’ll go into what this entails in two paragraphs.)  Besides substantial “Medicare” copays and deeper cuts to pensions, the analysts also consider cuts to other government programs.  For the US that would mean cuts to defense and poverty programs.  Of these ways, it turns out that increased copays look the most fair.  That is, the other balancing techniques have sometimes impressively large net income redistributions between the generations.  These can be something like 10 percent or more of lifetime income. I would imagine most would consider these rather large inequities.  Lowering pensions doesn’t level the playing field much from the (massive) consumption tax increases posited in the work. 

In pretty much any case, big inter-generational transfers are afoot for Japan, and about any other first-world country with similar welfare-state programs.

Now back to why 2040 is an annus mirabilis.  Elsewhere, Congressman Paul Ryan (referencing the CBO) mentioned an interesting phenomenon in fiscal modeling:  When the going gets tough, sometimes you can’t find a budgetary solution!  For the present study this happened at debt-to-GDP ratios below 4.  What this means is, if you don’t change taxes or spending or both by enough and soon-enough (see above) there is no path forward for the government fiscal apparatus.  Of course, this trusts, to a certain extent, the completeness of the computer’s algorithm in finding solutions.  Let’s soft-peddle that wonkish issue and say these algorithms are “reasonably good” at doing their job (searching for and finding a budgetary solution over time, if one exists). 

If that is the case, and the simulations reasonably mirror reality (they aren’t out-of-this world, I assure you; re-distributable GDP doesn’t fall from helicopters, after all), doing nothing up to 2040 means creating a set of real fiscal flows that cannot be sustained long term.  ‘Fiscal flows’ here means pension outlays, medical payments, programs, taxation, and bond issuances and payments.

This failure (“epic fail,” the younger generations once said) is the simulation analog of the situation where compounding interest payments take up more and more of government income.  That is, the government must float more debt just to pay interest on debt.  At that point (interest compounding), things get out of hand fast, and it is safe to say a credit event will occur.  For everyone apart from Dr. Krugman and maybe the Kirchners, this is a bad thing. 

For this post, because we are happily dealing with the easier and insular Japanese case, it means the necessity of a radical restructuring of how pensions and medical care are financed.  That is, the system doesn’t work.  But remember what we’re interested in studying is (Japanese) systems that do function.  This requires raising taxes, and also – see above – reducing program generosity.  (I tacitly assume one cannot realistically jettison the welfare-state apparatus, which, given what political interests are, is a Libertarian fantasy.)

It turns out things are worse.  Those earlier (high taxation) solutions already had gradual reductions in a reformed pension payments system baked-in.  I’m sure Prime Minister Abe fought hard to make those reforms reality.  Our system has these reductions baked-in too; it’s called the Trust Fund, and I’m sure it will prove a battle-ground in time as well (cf. Greece, Detroit).

So, even that reduction is not enough.  The authors of this important paper find Japan also needs a “Medicare” copay of 30 percent, in addition to (touching) Denmark’s rate of taxation.  Well, I guess we know what the future looks like. 

Except, it will probably be worse.

Round Two: Decrying a Growing Academic Corruption

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Last week MARRI decried the Supreme Court’s ignoring of the data in the same-sex marriage case. This week we decry a related corruption in academia:  the project of shutting down comparative research on same-sex couples, marriage, and parenting.  The American Psychological Association, The American Sociological Association, and the National Council of Family Relations are all participating in this project.
Below we quote from the American College of Pediatricians’ amicus brief. This excerpt is one example of the type of research not found in the journals of these organizations. As a result, this research is not making it into the academic discourse of most social science departments in the United States. Below we include graphs from the amicus brief that give the reader some idea of what is being deliberately kept out of the academic discourse. While no data are the final words, the following information comes from datasets repeatedly used in research articles in journals published by the associations mentioned above.
There is a need for a phrase that labels this corruption of the social sciences in the United States – a nation founded on the concept of freedom. We suggest: “Academic Jacobinism”. Pass this research on to students and professors you know for they are unlikely to have been exposed to this body of research. (Underlining added.)
Despite being certified by almost all major social science scholarly associations—indeed, in part because of this—the alleged scientific consensus that having two parents of the same sex is innocuous for child well-being is almost wholly without basis. All but a handful of the studies cited in support draw on small, non-random samples which cannot be extrapolated to the same-sex population at large. This limitation is repeatedly acknowledged in scientific meetings and journals, but ignored when asserted as settled findings in public or judicial advocacy.
Of the several dozen extant studies on same-sex parenting in the past two decades, only eight have used a random sample large enough to find evidence of lower well-being for children with same-sex parents if it exists. Of these eight, the four most recent studies, by Dr. Mark Regnerus, Dr. Douglas Allen and two by Dr. Paul Sullins, report substantial and pertinent negative outcomes for children with same-sex parents. The four earlier studies, by Dr. Michael Rosenfeld and three by Dr. Jennifer Wainright and colleagues, find no differences for children with same-sex parents because, due to errors in file coding and analysis, a large portion of their samples actually consists of children with heterosexual parents. When the sample used by Wainright’s three studies is corrected of this error and re-analyzed, these data also show negative outcomes for children with same-sex parents similar to those reported by Regnerus and Sullins. More importantly, they also show substantially worse outcomes for children who have lived an average of ten years with same-sex parents who are married than for those who have lived only four years, on average, with unmarried same-sex parents.
The family arrangement envisioned in same-sex marriage is generally understood to be the condition of actually having two parents of the same sex, not opposite-sex parents who may or may not be in a same-sex relationship with someone outside the home. Instead of comparing heterosexual parents with same-sex parents, Wainright et al’s three studies compared a group of heterosexual parents with another group of (mostly) heterosexual parents. It is not surprising they found “no differences” in child outcomes between these groups, since they are, for the most part, the same group. The findings of these three studies do not apply at all to same-sex parenting and form no reasonable basis to conclude that children of same-sex parents are not disadvantaged.
Re-analysis of the Wainright studies data, after correcting the sample flaws, reveals that adolescents with married same-sex parents fare worse than those with unmarried same-sex parents. …
Comparing the married and unmarried same-sex parents with their opposite-sex counterparts, Sullins found that, while outcomes for children with opposite-sex parents improved if their parents were married, outcomes for children with same-sex parents were notably worse if their parents were married.
Bar charts below … illustrate the results. Asterisks by a number in the charts indicate that it can be inferred with confidence to the U.S. population of adolescents; the more asterisks, the greater the confidence.

You can read the entire brief here.


A Sad Day for the Social Sciences

American Sociological Association, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, SCOTUS, social science, Supreme Court, The National Council of Family Relations No comments
This past week the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage. There has been relatively no discussion of its effect on children, which, many would contend, is the principle reason for government’s involvement in marriage. But even less has been said about what this ruling means for the social science community through the Courts misuse of the research laid before it on children of same-sex couples.
In the Majority Opinion, Justice Kennedy asserts that children would not be harmed by legalizing same-sex marriage. On page 15 of the opinion, he states that same-sex marriage ought to be safeguarded because it “affords the permanency and stability important to children’s best interests”, a position affirmed by The National Council of Family Relations (NCFR) and  The American Sociological Association (ASA).  Their  research clearly influenced the court decision, but it was social science  so bad (and repeatedly defended) its  distortion of the findings had to be  deliberate for there  is no way that research this poor would get such a pass by these two professional bodies on any other issue.
Social science seeks truth through methodological rigor to better inform the academy and the public. The research justifying the assertion that same-sex marriage helps children is repeatedly contradicted by rigorous research (see research from Dr. Paul Sullins, of Catholic University of American here, here, and here).
Furthermore, decades of research demonstrates that children do best when raised by their intact biological parents. Thus NCFR and ASA unwittingly painted themselves into a rather strange corner, as Pat Fagan, Director of The Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), explains:
…The logical conclusion of what they have submitted to the Supreme Court is that there is no impact on a child born to heterosexual parents and then separated from one parent and raised by the other parent and that parent’s new homosexual partner. This claim flatly contradicts incontrovertible evidence that child-parent separation even in a heterosexual context has a significant impact on the children involved. For the ASA’s “consensus” position to hold true, same-sex married parents must be uniquely superior to heterosexual parents in order to erase the natural consequences of such separations.  The conclusion is so implausible that the ASA does not draw it, but instead fills its brief with methods that fail “Statistics 101.
Clearly influenced by the “authority” of ASA and NCFR, the Supreme Court did not even acknowledge, and thus suppressed, the contrary social science evidence presented to them.

Patrick Deneen, professor of constitutional studies at the University of Notre Dame, quoting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in a  First Things commentary, indicates the way forward: “Therein we find, neglected by us, the simplest, the most accessible key to our liberation: a personal nonparticipation in lies! Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule, let us resist in the smallest way: Let their rule hold not through me!” The data that do not fit are a key to progress in the social sciences.  NCFR and ASA have participated in suppressing data by not allowing research consisting of “contrary data” to be published in their journals. The history of science is littered with such suppressions, which eventually hurt the historical reputations of those involved.  Paraphrasing Chief Justice Roberts (page 29 of his decent), MARRI concludes: “if you are in favor of same-sex marriage, celebrate this ruling, celebrate the changes to come, celebrate that you received what you desired,  but do not celebrate the social science, it had nothing to do with it. It was not present.”

Pope Francis: The Family is Key to Our Environment

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Marriage and family are the necessary foundations of the road towards a sound ecology and away from environmental degradation, contends Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Laudato Si.

Quick verification test: What major nation is the most abusive of the environment and of children? China, by far on both counts.

In Laudato Si Pope Francis indicates that only by protecting the family, the first environment every child encounters, will society experience effectual progress:

I would stress the great importance of the family, which is “the place in which life—the gift of God—can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life.” In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings. (Paragraph 213)

Pope Francis contends that man’s hardened heart, and the society it has produced, has profoundly damaged the environment. While Francis grapples with ecological issues, he primarily laments the decrepit human environment wrought with selfishness, insensitivity, self-gratification, and irreligiosity. As MARRI research has found on so many non-environmental issues such as the economy and health, environmental reform must first address the foundation of all human interaction, the family, “the basic cell of society,” (paragraph 157).

In society today, premarital sex, divorce, and cohabitation have massively depleted our human ecology. In the United States, only 46% of 15- to 17-year-olds have been raised by their married biological parents, and only 17% of black 15- to 17-year-olds have always lived with their married mother and father. At a vulnerable age when children should learn forgiveness, self-control, and love of neighbor, they instead experience rejection from their very own parents.

Although the majority of single and divorced parents selflessly dedicate their lives to ensuring that their children are guided by love of God, love of God’s law, and love of God’s creation, the average child raised in a broken family is deprived of the gifts of life in some way.  Slowly but increasingly, recent generations have been made “wound-bearers” by their parents and have to fend for themselves in ways not meant for children.  They are being hardened to life and to their surroundings.

But there is hope. A revival of the intact married family will imbue children with the love and care that all children ought to receive in order to reflect it back onto their environment. MARRI data shows that children raised in intact families are more social, exhibit less aggression, and practice better self-control than those in non-intact families, all necessary for salvaging the biological environment.

East Meets West

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By Henry Potrykus


In a previous whitepaper, we described research that shows TV negatively affects family formation and family intactness. Here we want to report on a new, similar study  that shows Western television contributes to declining fertility rates.

In “Television Role Models and Fertility—Evidence from a Natural Experiment” two German econometricians looked at the effect of Western German programming on East German family formation over the Cold War.

During the first years of the Cold War, East Germany (GDR) was rather insular.  For the purpose of the study it isn’t important if the GDR was behind a physical wall; what matters is that Western TV reception was rigorously streng verboten (forbidden): There were campaigns to tear down West-facing antennae found on East German homes.

With the arrival of the Honecker government in 1971, things changed.  Détente arrived.  With it came Western TV showing East Germans the ‘Western family ideal’:  no kids.

Well, not all of East Germany saw this change.  Dresden was a black-out zone – not because Westerners didn’t want to reach it, but because of physics: The signal didn’t propagate all the way over there.

Throughout these changes, East German TV was comparatively pro-child.  Though women were still expected to be part of the economic-industrial machine, family was portrayed in a deliberately positive light.

So, we have a natural experiment:

Our German econometricians use the fact that Western TV “turned on” in the GDR in the 1970s, and that it never really got to Dresden, to show that Western TV reduced family size wherever it went.

Although their study is not (yet) as complete as the one we described in the whitepaper, it is another rather clear indicator that our role models out West affect who we become – or don’t become, in this case.  They affect us negatively when it comes to the fundamental ordering unit of society: the family.

With these important empirical studies, perhaps that old debate over whether programming affects us (negatively) is closer to settled.  Since there is still no shortage of zero-population growth-types around, whether this effect is pejorative may still be controversial.  One thing is sure: with the incipient decline of European nations (including Germany), fewer and fewer of their people will hold the opposing view.  Double entendre entirely intended.