history

history

East Meets West

family, history, TV No comments
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.

Lessons on Divorce from Henry VIII

children, divorce, education, history, MARRI No comments

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.