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.
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).