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.
June 5, 2015
Two weeks ago I made a presentation on The Family as The Agent of Economic Development and the Fundamental Safety Net at a conference at the United Nations that was sponsored by the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission, The Pontifical Council for the Family, and The UN Alliance of Civilizations. I set the stage with the framework of the five basic institutions of society: The family, the church, the school, the marketplace, and the government. Each institution has its basic function or task within society; for family it is the sexual, for religion it is reflection, for education it is learning, for the marketplace it is production, and for government it is protection.
The presentation illustrated how society, in each of the five institutions, benefits from marriage. A sample item will serve as a brief synopsis of how marriage influences the economic marketplace.
According to the Survey of Consumer Finance, the median income for the “married always intact” family is $82,270 while their net worth is $546,944. Both figures are substantially higher than any other household structure, whether married step, cohabiting intact, cohabiting step, separated, divorced, widowed, or never married.
Furthermore, when one seeks to discover what the contribution is from marriage to the general tax pool the data show that married couples contribute a staggering 40% more than two single individuals identical in all ways to the married couple even while they benefit from the tax deduction received for being married. More data and analysis on this subject will be released by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute in the coming months.
This doesn’t even begin to look at myriad other impact such as the economic impacts of divorce or the marriage premium effect on male income. But is only a small glimpse of the widespread influence of marriage on the five basic institutions of society. To read the entire presentation or to get a copy of the PowerPoint used during the presentation, please visit http://marri.us/un-holysee.
May 29, 2015
November 10, 2014
September 29, 2014
July 22, 2014
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.
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.
March 6, 2014
By: Patrick Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
Avery Pettway, MARRI Intern
Jonathan Vespa’s study, “Historical Trends in the Marital Intentions of One-Time and Serial Cohabitors,” just published in February’s Journal of Marriage and Family, confirms what many sense: that among current child-bearing aged women attitudes towards marriage have shifted downwards, mainly through the influence of cohabitation, which is increasingly serial.
Vespa finds two compounding associations within present cohabitation trends.
- The downward trend in marital intentions holds steady and is significant even when controlling for serial cohabitation.
- There is an additional negative association between serial cohabitation and decreased marital intentions. Serial cohabitants (a rising percentage of ever-cohabited women) are less likely to enter a cohabiting relationship with plans to marry (to varying degrees, dependent on whether it is the first, second, or third union) than are one-time cohabitants.
In short, a woman in today’s world entering a cohabiting relationship is less likely to have marital intent, and she is even still more less-likely to have marital intent if she is a serial cohabitant.
Cohabitation used to be an intentional (though relatively uncommon) stepping stone to marriage for women who engaged in it but that switched with women who were born between 1963 and 1967, and the pattern has continued unwaveringly since then.
Bottom line: There is more of a disconnect between sexual intercourse, cohabitation and marriage. Cohabitation is increasingly accepted as an independent entity, and choosing it has nothing to do with expecting marriage or choosing marriage.
Vespa’s study reveals that compared to women in the youngest cohort (born between 1978 and 1982), women in the oldest cohort (born between 1958 and 1962) had odds of having marital intentions that were 1.40 times higher. Such data suggests that America’s cultural assumption that marriage is sexuality’s end goal is dwindling more and more.
This obviously threatens the health (and rate) of marriage and the institution of the family’s person-forming power. As serial cohabitation rises, marital intentions decrease, and the two compound to push marriage even further into the recesses of the American mind, the stable familial space in which children have been consistently and healthily formed for generations will continue to weaken and with it the future America will be similarly weakened. As we are seeing (and as, I predict, we will continue to see), what plagues the family plagues the other foundational social institutions of Church, School, Marketplace, and Government. As marriage becomes more of a mental side note to our sexual practices, relational instability will continue to increase first in the family, followed later by relational instability in the other institutions (as the child grows into them as an adult).
Vespa isolated the increasing disconnect between sexual union and marriage. The country has yet to feel anxious about its effects on the children, their education, the economy and the capacity of our country to govern itself.
March 4, 2014
By: Pat Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
Joshua Kelsey, MARRI Intern