July 1, 2014
The National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University has just issued a research report on the rates of “first marriage” across different racial/ethnic groups. Interestingly, the ranking of those rates closely parallels the cross-racial/ethnic ranking of the Index of Family Belonging (the fraction of 15- to 17-year-olds who have grown up in an intact married family, which has not changed measurably in the last 3 years) published by The Marriage and Religion Research Institute.
June 17, 2014
Not until the withdrawal from marriage of the last fifty years has the West been able to see so clearly its powerful contribution to all aspects of society including the economy.
Gary Becker’s work brought the family back into economics (where it had been the foundational unit of economics in the beginning, as laid out by the common sense of Aristotle). Becker’s vein of research has gained more traction and has influenced the work of many other Nobel Laureates, including Robert Lucas (1995): macro growth theory of expectations; James Heckman (2000): econometric theory of samples; and George Akerlof (2001): Keynesian market economics.
Marriage makes men different. And if it does not, their marriages either end or are unhappy.
Among the economic differences that marriage makes in men, two stand out: they work harder (married men are more productive, and an area’s minor dependency ratio is strongly associated with employment among adult men aged 25 to 54), and thus earn more (their incomes increase 26 percent).
Conversely, divorce has a major negative impact, reducing the income of the child-raising household by 30 percent or more while driving down the growth rate of the economy by one sixth every year for the last 20 years. This latter happens because divorced men, on average, decrease their productivity enormously.
In education, the precondition for a good wage in the modern economy, marriage is a key ingredient to the productivity of children in their learning. The early home environment lays down a foundation that has an extremely powerful effect later in life. Children born into a married family have a tremendous educational advantage, which is evidenced by graduation rates right through to the college level.
Married families are much more economically efficient households, a characteristic that is not measured in GDP accounting. What is invisible here is the real resource efficiency of a major section of the economy (the home economy). Many married home economies do much better internally because of this totally neglected aspect of productivity.
As the poor and the working class (even into the middle class quintile 3) withdraw from marriage, the productivity of the U.S. declines and the burden on the welfare system increases. Furthermore, the success of the social and welfare policies developed over the last decades greatly depend on the health of marriage. Failing to recognize this dependence, U.S. welfare policies continue to fail to lift people out of poverty (even as the economy grows and world markets massively expand).
Marriage is increasingly the dividing line between those who can learn, who can work in an information economy, who save, who own their own homes, who live happier lives, and who live healthier and longer.
Until now, marriage has been the hidden ingredient of a vibrant economy.
May 15, 2014
Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director, Marriage and Religion Research Institute
Here is a question for the two authors of the Scientific American’s recent article on the not-so-bad effects of divorce.
Why is it that in all measures of outcomes at the national level children of divorce as a group do significantly worse than children of intact married families? If divorce has so little effect why do these big effects constantly appear, in virtually every measure measured? Even remarriage does not wipe out most of them, and even intensifies some of them … at the group level.
On every outcome measured children of divorce as a group do worse, significantly worse. That is a generalization but one that holds. For a fairly recent overview and synthesis of the findings see The Effects of Divorce on Children.
Not all children suffer all the possible bad effects and different children suffer to different degrees, even within the same family. This provides some consolation to parents who divorce, but little to those who did not want divorce yet had to endure it.
As a former therapist who helped some awful marriages turn around I know how helpless the spouse is who wants to make the marriage work while the other spouse just wants out. When both, even in awful and abusive marriages, want to make it work, such marriages can be made whole again. But when one spouse in a relatively decent marriage wants out there is nothing that can be done. Spouse and therapist are helpless (though there are things a good therapist can try with the willing spouse to get the other to change her mind — more women want out than do men— but such is a long shot and both know it).
None of the literature reviewed talked about the sexual difficulties of children of divorce: out of wedlock births (but many protest that is OK too), early sexual involvement (but other protest that is OK too), cohabitation before marriage (but many protest that is OK too), and their own much higher rates of divorce after they marry (but that brings us back full circle).
The article seems more like a justification and rationalization of the radical individualism involved in the breakup of a marriage. More than half of American parents split whether in divorce, after cohabitation or by not coming together at all. By age 17 fifty four percent of American children have parents who have rejected each other. This intimate family experience of the deepest of rejections has lasting effects, some overt and easily measured by sociologists, others much more subtle but happiness-robbing and visible only in therapy or experienced only by spouses of children of divorce.
Western Civilization was built on stable marriage, a phenomenon Christianity gave the West and with it all the treasures and strengths of stable family life. Not all Christians lived Christ’s way but many did and they shaped law, society, expectations in myriad ways to give societies that stability with all its benefits. But modern man, including most modern Americans, even American Christians, find Christianity too hard and are leaving it or the harder parts behind. They are free to choose but they are not free to choose the consequences: more instability in family, more chaos in society, and less developed human beings overall.
Christians have to learn to live with these burdens that others place on society as a whole and thus on them as well. Early Christians lived in societies rife with these burdens.
We are going into a new phase in history that will not be as happy, nor as easy as it was half a century ago. Welcome to suffering, and to the self-justification of those who don’t want to make their marriages work when they get “bad”. The only way to turn this around is for Christians to live marriage and family life as they are called to live it. Eventually others will say again “See how they love one another”. Then they will want back in. Freedom works both ways: leaving and coming back.
March 12, 2014
Although there are five basic institutions in society, only three of them are what I call “person-forming”. The marketplace and government function to protect individuals and to provide for goods and services, but they do not function to directly form the individual. It is the family, the church, and the school that shape character, instill moral principles (which are universal and timeless), and which develop the person as a whole. Thus these three institutions serve society in this, the most foundational and critical of its long range tasks. They each play a direct role in the formation of a person as he moves toward adulthood—additionally, the marketplace and government rely on the primacy of these three person-forming institutions in order to have people capable of serving in their economic and citizen roles.
Why are the institutions of family, church, and school able to form an individual while the institutions of marketplace and government are not? The answer profoundly impacts our national discussion about policies and their implications. Even more importantly, as we delve deeply into this question, we can see more clearly what it means to be human.
There is something foundational to human life that the institutions of marketplace and government simply cannot provide: it is the intimate relational formation of a person. People’s deepest need is relational—love, care, affection, and personalized guidance. In the family, a child finds the nurturing intimacy he needs. In the church, he finds the relational intimacy with the divine that speaks to his soul’s questions. In the school, through good relationships with his teachers, he learns how to understand the world in which he will soon act. The marketplace and the government are the institutions through which he can later exercise who he has become through the shaping of his family, church, and school. When it comes to directly forming who he is, however, marketplace and government have significantly less direct impact—though, in their proper context, laws can teach a great deal, and services from the dark side of the economy can corrupt (e.g. pornography).
As we will explore in future blog postings, the consequences are grave if we misunderstand the distinct nature of the person-forming institutions. To return to our farming analogy: it is ignorant and futile for a farmer to expect abundant crops and sustainable returns without first preparing the soil for harvest, planting good seeds, and caring for the land. Failure to do so results in stunted crop growth and insufficient income for the farmer.
Similarly, we must protect the “three sacred spaces” of family, church and school to permit the harmonizing of the person-forming tasks: the family, where the child most deeply develops as a relating and belonging person; the church, where he orients himself to life and its big issues; and the school, where he learns about the world around him and how to make sense of it. As the farming analogy shows, a child’s future productivity and stability depend on the person-forming institutions’ foundational actions. Giving improper weight to the instrumental institutions—or disconnecting the person-forming ones from each other—will lead to societal destabilization (indeed, this is already happening). When families are treasured and intact, when those families worship God weekly, and when schools aid the work of parents in teaching children according to their worldviews: children from such families thrive, and a society made of these families grows in well-being. Such is the task of each generation—of all societies, across the globe. These are universal truths.
February 7, 2014
By Avery Pettway, Intern
Though pro-life advocates can rejoice that the crux of the debate is no longer the question of when life begins, we continue on in an often frustrating conversation with pro-choice commentators. With the life of the fetus scientifically confirmed, choice advocates have become more fixated on nuances and thought patterns that can emotionally inflame the public while distracting from the reality of what abortion is. Amanda Marcotte’s recent article in Slate, “AUL’s ‘Life List’ Crowns the ‘All Star’ States That Attack Women’s Rights Best,” harps on what she claims is the safety imbalance between “extremely low-complication abortions” and the “condition known as child birth that usually requires hospitalization and much more invasive medical interventions.” Indeed, it is difficult at some level to foresee arguments such as this one because of their unfounded logical assumptions, but nevertheless, we must combat them with reason and research.
For starters, Marcotte’s assertion that “child birth is 14 times more dangerous than legal abortion” is false according to the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Pregnancy and childbirth may be laborious and intense, but it is a natural process of the life cycle supported and strengthened by modern technology—abortion, on the other hand, is far from a natural process and should be regarded skeptically because of how it surreptitiously invades the bodies of women and children.
Even more troubling than inaccurate information, however, is Marcotte’s underlying claim that our basis for judging whether to encourage child birth or abortion is which one is physically less taxing on the woman. If we were to carry out Marcotte’s claim to its logical end, choosing the apparent ease of abortion over time and energy-intensive pregnancies, our society would be in demographic and economic (not just moral) disaster. MARRI research reveals the disturbing extent to which our abortion policy harms our population stability and economic growth. Marcotte’s argument that abortion is less physically dangerous and less expensive than pregnancy quickly breaks down under the study’s finding that “the overall social and economic burdens of the changes created through legalizing abortion eclipse any claimed benefits of the practice…the act undermines the economy, causes disease, and warps society’s most important relationship [of marriage].” When pro-choice advocates are numb to moral accusation, perhaps well-founded portents such as MARRI’s research will strike a new chord with them.
January 29, 2014
By MARRI Intern
A recent article for Smithsonian Magazine gives a brief history about divorce in the western world. The author tells the story of Henry VIII and his attempts to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon. In short, Henry VIII needed a son as heir and he went through six wives before he died, never acquiring the heir he required. Beyond the stories of his many wives, Henry VIII is also well-known for forming the Church of England, a reaction to the Roman Catholic Church’s refusal to grant him an annulment of his marriage to Catherine.
Though Henry was eventually granted his annulments via the newly formed Church of England, this new religious body remained very strict with divorce. At first, the laws just made it easier for men to divorce their wives since they only had to prove their spouse had committed adultery. Wives on the other hand had to prove adultery and one additional offence before they could divorce their husbands. As time has gone on, it has become easier for wives to divorce their husbands. In today’s society there is no longer a need to even prove an offense, and divorces can be procured for any reason whatsoever. From the time of Henry VIII to today, divorce has achieved incredible popularity, but in the not too distant past, divorce was looked upon as scandalous and shameful. Today, divorce is so common that nearly everyone knows at least one divorced couple.
Divorce has affected our society in a multitude of ways, from family issues to education to economic prosperity. MARRI research has shown that divorce is harmful, not only to the family but to the economy. In one MARRI research paper, The Effect of Divorce on Children, Dr. Patrick Fagan shows that divorce weakens the family and one’s relationship with God, diminishes a child’s learning capability, increases crime, and negatively affects the economy. Additional MARRI research has also shown that family structure affects the educational outcomes of children, with those from non-intact families scoring lower on reading and math tests, and earning lower overall GPAs. Furthermore, adolescents raised in a non-intact family are far less likely to attend college as compared to their peers from intact families. For the country as a whole, divorce leads to a decline in economic prosperity due to decreased male productivity. If allowed to continue, the divorce trend spells disaster for both the family and the nation.
January 28, 2014
By Avery Pettway, Intern
A new Harvard study released this month entitled “Where is the Land of Opportunity?: The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States” provides expanded insight and a refreshing new weight to the findings of previous MARRI research. As Brad Wilcox of the National Marriage Project explains in his January 22 article in Slate, this new study takes center stage because it is “the first major study showing that rates of single parenthood at the community level are linked to children’s economic opportunities over the course of their lives.” Experts in the realms of social science and social advocacy have long been pushing for greater attention to be given to the relation between a child’s well-being and the marital status of his parents. And as our own research has revealed, social trends in which the state has a significant interest—particularly the educational success and productive potential of children—are shaped in large part by family intactness. Another MARRI study found that while education, income, race, and ethnicity are all factors to be considered when determining positive outcomes for children, they fall short in significance compared to the level of family intactness. Harvard’s study in effect joins hands with MARRI’s findings, showing the tight link between individual family units and the entire community when it comes to the effects of broken family structure.
To many, the assertion that having married parents helps kids do better in school and in life may seem like the beating of a dead horse—but in fact, such claims are only one facet of a large and problematic reality that we as a society will soon face. Not only does single parenting put the child at greater risk of continued poverty or stagnancy—that parent’s entire community takes a blow. To understand this fully, we must consider the implications of this research in terms of which family status to promote. Marriage must be the encouraged norm of a community in order for people to thrive. In this healthy, stable, relational space, the less common single parents who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances can have the support of a married community to aid them. The intact majority bolsters the non-intact few, and all can be pushed towards mobility and strength—so long as marriage is the dominant culture of the community.
On the other hand, when single parenthood grows and marriage weakens, incomplete parental support becomes the defining culture of the area, ultimately leading a community away from economic mobility and health. As the proportion of those who need stabilizing aid grows relative to those who can give stabilizing aid, that community is already regressing and cannot offer much hope of upward mobility to its children. Encouraging marriage in the political and social realms is not intended to disregard or disrespect the single mother—in fact, as the Harvard study reveals, her children and her neighbors’ children are in theory at a disadvantage if we fail to foster a better alternative. Sadly the subjects of the study—single parents and broken family structure—are becoming more the norm in the United States as divorces increase, out-of-wedlock births rise among many people groups, and marriage loses public and political esteem. If we hope to avoid this broken outcome becoming our national standard of success, married couples must be the driving force in encouraging and supporting marriage for their communities.
September 16, 2013
By MARRI Intern
September 13, 2013
By Danielle Lee, MARRI Intern