human capital

human capital

Put Your Money Where Your Marriage Is

culture, human capital, marriage, mothers, poverty, religion, teen pregnancy No comments
Lindsay Smith, Intern

“16 and Pregnant,” “Teen Moms,” and countless other reality shows have popularized and perhaps even glamorized the lives of unmarried mothers in our society.   In addition, the trend of popular female celebrities becoming single mothers furthers the attention.  While Hollywood portrays this family structure as desirable and even empowering for women, the true hardships of single motherhood are not always given their just time in the spotlight.  Let me be clear, I applaud single and unwed mothers for choosing life for their babies, a valiant decision in a culture which all but hands them a “get out of motherhood free” card.  No, the solution to the plight of the single mother does not come from abortion, but rather from Marriage. 

The Houston Chronicle recently released an article titled Figures show struggle worsening for single mothers,” which shares the stories and struggles of several single moms straining to make ends meet.  According to the article, “41 percent of households headed by single women with children live in poverty – nearly triple the national poverty rate, according to 2010 census data.”  This percentage alone should seize our attention.  However, combine it with the fact that more than half of single mothers over age twenty rely on public assistance, and these statistics don’t softly whisper for concern.   They deafeningly cry for action – or should I say results.  Many in government have championed action through the years: job training, GED programs, welfare.  These actions seem to only create a treadmill – lots of movement but no upward mobility – and find many of their recipients in the same place year after year.  At the article’s conclusion, Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation summarizes it best: “The welfare state has been about picking up the pieces from non-marital births, and it’s not working. The reality is that you can’t create a substitute father.”
MARRI’s studies confirm Mr. Rector’s assertion.  An intact married family has the highest average income and net worth and experiences less poverty than other family types, all of which carries over to their children’s well-being.  On the reverse side, according to these studies, “A non-intact family background increases by over 50 percent a boy’s odds of ending up in the lowest socioeconomic level.”  Family structure has not only immediate effects but also intergenerational effects on a child’s economic status.  Females who grow up in an intact married family are far less likely to have a non-marital pregnancy than those who were raised in an always single-parent family.  In case anyone is tempted to think this only applies to single mothers, studies also show married men have a higher rate of employment than single men.   Let’s not forget that God’s design was to give Adam both a job and a helper, who was Eve.  Speaking of God’s design, learning about His plan for marriage and family appears to significantly affect this female demographic.  The Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Survey reports that “urban mothers who attend church frequently are at least 70 percent more likely to be married when they give birth or to get married within one year of a nonmarital birth than are urban mothers who do not attend church frequently.”
As one of the moms in the Chronicle article poignantly expresses, “Sometimes I think I’m in a big hole and I can’t see the light, but then I know God is big and there’s something big for me.”  And she is right.  Perhaps we should all stop asking people what their temporary aid for single mothers would be, and remind ourselves of God’s unchanging, perfect (and big) plan for the family.

Saving the life of the country: the dangers of “demographic suicide”

family, human capital, marriage, sexual revolution, world population No comments
Kevin J. Burns, Intern
Ever since Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 best-selling book The Population Bomb, there have been widespread concerns about overpopulation. But overpopulation is a myth, especially in western society. As Alejandro Macarron Larumbe argues in his recently-published article in Expansión, a Spanish economic newspaper, western populations are quickly shrinking and western economies are shrinking with them.
In developed countries, a fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman will ensure population status quo. Larumbe’s article seeks to bring attention to Spain’s paltry fertility rate of 1.35. Across Europe, the native population is quickly shrinking, with an average fertility rate of 1.5. Even in the United States, the fertility rate is expected to bottom out at a 25-year low of 1.89 for 2012, down from a high of 2.12 in 2007.
Falling birth rates in the west should come as no surprise. In the wake of the sexual revolution – with the advent of no-fault divorce, cohabitation and legalized abortion – Americans have consistently chosen to put off having children until later in life, or even to avoid having children altogether. Even Carl Djerassi, one of the scientists who helped to develop the birth control pill, has protested against the devastating effects of this trend, warning that there is no longer any “connection at all between sexuality and reproduction.” One can make moral arguments about this phenomenon, but in this case moral arguments are unnecessary to prove the disastrous long-term consequences of our spiraling birth rates. With the decline in our fertility rates and population, our economic stability and viability are at stake.
Larumbe warns that the trend of “demographic suicide” in Spain may have massive economic repercussions on the country. Although he admits that Spain’s economy grew for roughly 40 years after her birthrates began to fall off – as a result of women working instead of staying at home with children, less capital spent on child-care, education and the like – Larumbe points out the blatantly obvious fact that this trend cannot continue into perpetuity.
We face the same harsh reality in the United States. Through the post-World War II era, the United States expected roughly four percent annual GDP growth, mostly from human capital (those skills, capacities and know-how contained in the human person and valued in the labor market). However, since the decline of the family and the nation’s fertility rates in the 1960s and 1970s, human capital’s contribution to GDP growth has been more than halved.
What is happening in Spain and the U.S. has global implications. The United Nations’ Population Division reports, “Perhaps the most significant demographic change over the past three decades has been the substantial decline in fertility in all areas of the world. Since 1970-1975 world total fertility has declined by 37 percent: from 4.5 births per woman to the 1995-2000 level of 2.8.”

Marriage as a Public Good

human capital, MARRI, marriage, social institutions No comments
Julia Polese, Intern
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse of the Ruth Institute is running a series of articles on Public Discourse this week about the follies of a conception of marriage that is exclusively private. Answering slogans like “Get the government out of the marriage business” and “Leave it to the churches” that are popular in some libertarian circles, Morse outlines the public goods of marriage. It is in civil society’s best interest – even the smallest of government, night watchman state-touting libertarian’s interest – to maintain traditional marriage as a public good. As a primary mitigating institution between the citizen and the state, marriage provides a stopgap to the encroaching central government on civil society, maintains order in raising children with a mother and a father, and, moreover, Morse argues, is inextricably linked with the current societal involvement of the state. “The government is already deeply involved in many aspects of human life that affect people’s decisions of what kind of relationship to be in,” she writes. “For instance, government’s policies regarding welfare, health care, and housing have contributed to the near-disappearance of marriage from the lower classes, not only in America, but throughout the industrialized world.”
Despite the difficulties social contract libertarians following John Stuart Mill’s intellectual tradition may have in articulating a justification for the covenant-based institution of marriage, Morse’s argument from protection from encroaching government appeals to such a political theory. Jean Bethke Elshtain explains the role of the family in a democratic society in her article “The Family and Civic Life,” calling on totalitarianism’s interest in destroying the family, a particular, in favor of the state, a universal: “to destroy private life; and most of all, to require that individuals never allow their commitments to specific others – family, friends, comrades – to weaken their commitment to the state. To this idea, which can only be described as evil, the family stands in defiance.” Thus, it is a good sign the state is involved in the “marriage business,” encouraging a civil institution that has its own authoritative structure separate from legislatures and executive branches. Morse argues this point from the problem of parenthood: if marriage disintegrates, the state becomes the de facto parent, becoming literally paternalistic.
 
The Marriage And Religion Research Institute’s research and publications corroborate this theory of the family with social science research. A paper entitled “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage” points out the human capital provided by marriage that is essential to a flourishing society apart from the state. It is in the citizens’ best interest for the state to recognize the traditional intact married family and, thus, it should be promoted and upheld.

Marriage and the Economy: There is a link

human capital, MARRI, marriage No comments
MARRI Interns

A recent study published by the Brookings Institute on the relationship between marriage and economics overlooks the causal importance of marriage in economic growth.  When discussing the lamentable recent decline in middle class income, the article rightly fingers macroeconomic features as culpable.  But marriage is also a decisive factor in the economic health of families, and the distinction between marriage and macroeconomics is not as stark as might be inferred from this study. “Globalization, technological changes, and changes in labor market institutions” must be accounted for in any diagnosis of the recent global economic malaise, but the omission of marriage from such a study results in a myopic diagnosis and a deficient prescription. 

The Brookings study posits a unidirectional model of causation: macroeconomic stagnation is responsible for the decline in marriage, and macroeconomic stability (not familial stability) is the only solution to the problem: “Rather than focusing on changing values, a more effective approach to addressing both poverty and marriage may be to improve economic opportunities for all Americans.” Thus the author of a New York Times article about this study may be forgiven for echoing that same causal logic: “The rich are different from you and me: they’re more likely to get married.” But this analysis is unidimensional and therefore deficient. The social science data is clear in its insistence that marriage itself improves the economic performance of the partners. A preferable, though no doubt more controversial, headline would read ,”Marrieds are different from you and me: they’re more likely to be rich.”
Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage, a recent piece of original MARRI research, highlights the numerous economic benefits of marriage, including a 0.9% increase in income per year for men after they marry. Another piece of original MARRI research entitled The Divorce Revolution Perpetually Reduces U.S. Economic Growth shows that “the rate of change in earnings year over year are consistently higher for men in intact marriages than among single or ever-divorced men.” Both of these studies emphasize that the causal link between marriage and economic success is the reverse of that implied by the Brookings study, and those seeking to resolve the nefarious economic straits faced by Americans today embark upon a fool’s errand if they continue to ignore these salutary benefits of monogamous, stable marriage.

Class Structure and Trends in American Marriage

culture, family, human capital, MARRI, marriage No comments
MARRI Interns
Charles Murray has written a new book detailing some of the most unnerving yet under-reported demographic trends shaping Americatoday.  Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 is his analysis of the contemporary American class structure which he argues is marked by a novel divergence of certain behaviors, including marital structure and religious activity.  The emphasis of his book is that these trends are novel because the highest and lowest classes in America“diverge on core behaviors and values” and consequently can “barely recognize their underlying American kinship.”

Murray’s longitudinal analysis of American culture from 1960-2010 identifies the cementation of the new lower classes around fundamental shifts in behavior in the areas of industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity.  If it is true “the feasibility of the American project has historically been based on industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity” and that these “founding virtues,” to use Murray’s phrase, have fallen into disfavor, these trends bear ill for the health of the society and the probability of success of the American project.

While I would not be the first to observe that Murray’s usage of data is idiosyncratic, it does highlight well-documented trends in the decline of marriage and simultaneous rise of divorce while adding the interesting gloss that these trends are now a signally defining rift between the lower class and the upper class.  Since, as our research shows and as Murrayrightly notes, “family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married,” the generational effect is compounded, further widening the rift between these classes.

Of foremost importance is the issue of marriage: “I have chosen to present class divergence in marriage first because it is so elemental.  Over the last half century, marriage has become the fault line dividing American classes.”  While the notion that articulating afresh and reinvigorating monogamous, heterosexual, lifelong marriage—that form of marriage that study after study demonstrates is most stable and most beneficial to the child—and committed religious affiliation and practice would be a panacea for the multifarious ills which afflict modern society is unacceptably reductionist, it is likewise facile to overlook the critical position occupied by both marriage and religion in exercising a causal link to the health and success of society as a whole.  While honesty itself is a relatively nebulous, intangible, unquantifiable measure in the social sciences, industriousness is explicitly quantifiable.  The wealth of research that is often cited on this blog demonstrates the correlation between industriousness and marriage; economic productivity increases as marriage increases, and men who never marry (or who have unstable relational lives) do not experience the same economic benefits as married persons enjoy.  Thus, we find that three out of Murray’s four barometers (the fourth, honesty, being difficult to quantify.  Murray himself equates it with adherence to the law) of societal health are inextricably bound together.

The analysis provided by Coming Apart adds another tome to the ever-expanding library of studies documenting the fact that marriage and religion are critical to the flourishing of society in general and of Americain particular.  The Marriage and Religion Research Institute is at the forefront of documenting these longitudinal shifts in American society through our Family Trends annual update that summarizes the findings of a number of peer-reviewed, academic journals. For those interested in longitudinal studies of American society, reading Murray’s analysis alongside MARRI’s trendline data will undoubtedly elucidate some of the unexpected yet undeniably significant demographic trends shaping modern America

American Demography: Meet the Parents

cohabitation, education, family, human capital, MARRI, marriage, poverty 2 comments
By MARRI Interns
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a front page article by Jason Deparle and Sabrina Tavernise reporting on new data by Child Trends (“For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage,” Feb. 18, 2012). But the objective data that the unassuming title portends quickly gives way to a remarkable synthesis of logical flaws, selective data interpretation, and glaring oversights which all culminate in an irredeemably confused analysis of contemporary American demography.

The raw data is not the cause of these accusations. The burgeoning number of children born outside of marriage is beyond dispute and is, as Deparle and Tavernise rightly note, a trend that is observable through the past five decades. Only slightly less controversial is the assertion that this trend has been decisively harmful to the development of the children involved. The article is thus correct in noting, “Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.” The article also includes the admission by Susan Brown, a sociologist from Bowling Green State University, that “children born to married couples, on average, ‘experience better education, social, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes.’” It is simply no longer a point of debate that children raised in monogamous, married, intact families perform incomparably better than do children raised in other family structures.

The article is lacking not because of flaws in the data but because Deparle and Tavernise’s interpretation of that data is erroneous and relatively dismissive. It is already established that these trends are pernicious toward children and society as a whole. Why then this facile intimation that such trends are somehow of nominal significance, that the increase of children born to unwed parents does not bode poorly for the future, and that marriage is somehow, in the words of University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg, “a luxury good,” in the face of volumes of sociological evidence to the contrary?

The confusion inherent in the article is made manifest in the implicit insinuation that such trends are simply to be accepted passively as an irremediable feature of American demography, and that the circumstances which occasioned their advent were regrettably unavoidable. Deparle and Tavernise’s interpretation of the data is a reductionist one that explains the decline in marriage as attributable almost entirely to economics and education. While DeParle and Tavernise rightly assert that “men are worth less than they used to be,” they provide no explanation for that development.  But the research presented in MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry shows definitively that men are worth less because they fail to marry, and that marriage correlates with significant increases in working hours, productivity, and wages for men. Furthermore, married, intact families save more, have higher average net worth, enjoy more rapid net worth growth, and are less likely to be impoverished than any other family structures. None of these benefits apply to cohabiting couples, the very structure identified by Deparle and Tavernise as the source of most of the new nonmarital births. The research supporting these conclusions is copious and consistently strengthened by newer studies. By contrast, the analysis provided in the NYTarticle has the causal link exactly backwards, and in ironic fashion, the cohabiting couples or single parents interviewed for the anecdotal segments of the article are also, by their intentional decision not to marry, unintentionally ensuring the propagation to their children of the very circumstances they attribute to be the cause of their familial instability, and thereby putting their children at a disadvantage, not shielding them from the potential devastation of a fractured marriage.

Nor are the beneficial aspects of involvement by both parents in a stable marriage for the children merely financial. MARRI’s 2011 Index of Belonging and Rejection demonstrates that children from intact, stable families have higher high school graduation rates and standardized tests scores and a lower incidence of teenage out-of-wedlock births, among other indicators. The data resound to indicate that mothers—even financially stable mothers—cannot so quickly dispense with the fathers of their children, nor can women be removed from a society without grave repercussions, as previous entries in this blog have noted. An indelible interconnectedness binds private behavior and public well-being together, and this ever-increasing volume of studies demonstrates that the sexes are not as independent and isolated as might be thought. It would seem that fathers and mothers are not mutually expendable baggage to be jettisoned capriciously for the sake of convenience, but are rather integral components of successful families and society as a whole.

A Selfish Dream

family, human capital, reproductive technology, sexuality No comments
By MaryAnn McCabe, Intern
At modamily.comthey advertise that they “bring your dream to life.” They state that “[t]he desire to become a parent is why single men and women use Modamily, but there is nothing preventing the development of a relationship. Our primary goal is to create a community for great potential parents that removes the stress and pressures associated with feeling that in order to be a parent one must find a spouse first.” Facilitating this sort of relationship could permanently skew the modern American’s perception of what family is.
 
“Modamily” and its ilk only have a market have their services, in large part, because young women have been convinced to give up on motherhood. Many have sacrificed a wedding, a husband, and children – and are left to resort to online co-parenting shopping.
 
Modamily allows you to choose your preferred method of conception (natural or artificial). Hypothetically, you could have intercourse with someone whom you meet on Modamily and believe would make a great co-parent. You might repeatedly “try” and fail to conceive. A man who has had a vasectomy (or STDs!) could potentially use the site for the sole purpose of finding ready sexual partners. This is a legitimate possibility, but the site does not protect against it. Modamily states that it “DOES NOT CONDUCT BACKGROUND CHECKS OR OTHERWISE SCREEN USERS OF THE WEBSITE IN ANY WAY.” The possibilities are both endless and terrifying.
 
Women’s peak fertility window is short (ages 22 to 26). Work, however, isn’t going anywhere. It is okay to press the “pause” button on work. Furthermore, while many women think raising children is a waste of time, a stay-at-home mother’s work contributes a lot to society. James J. Heckman, who is considered to be among the ten most influential economists in the world, wrote a paper titled Formulating, Identifying and estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation.  It identifies the scale of factors by estimating their effects on adult outcomes. Parental inputs have different effects at different stages of a child’s life. When a person leaves college to enter the workforce, there is a significant difference between someone whose parents invested a lot of time in them versus someone whose parents did not. There is a roughly thirty percent increase on earnings for young men and women graduating college whose parents invested their time in them. The median personal income is roughly $32,000.Thirty percent of $32,000 is $9,600. That figure is staggering! It means that if parents take their time and invest it in their child, he/she comes out of the college running with an average of $9,600 more annually then his/her peers! Stay-at-home mothers are at a particular advantage when it comes to investing time in their children.
 
In the end, Modamily’s purpose is to facilitate a selfish dream. They are selling a solution to childlessness that is ultimately harmful to all concerned.  As women we need to take personal responsibility for our fertility and decide whether it’s truly worth it to put off having children in order to pursue quick success at work.
 
For more on the importance of intact family life, visit www.marri.us.

What’s So Wrong with Polygamy?

child well-being, children, crime, culture, family, fathers, human capital, marriage, monogamy, news, polygamy, social institutions, women No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Libby Copeland writes for Slate on the effects of polygamy and monogamous marriage on crime in “Is Polygamy Really So Awful?” While we disagree with Ms. Copeland’s conclusion (that the best form of union for a society is best not because it is moral, but because it “works”), the research she references in her piece is extremely interesting. Read along:

History suggests that [plural marriage] is [harmful]. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. The Canadian researchers are really talking about polygyny, which is the term for one man with multiple wives, and which is by far the most common expression of polygamy. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.

“Monogamous marriage reduces crime,” Henrich and colleagues write, pulling together studies showing that polygynous societies create large numbers of unmarried men, whose presence is correlated with increased rates of rape, theft, murder, and substance abuse. According to Henrich, the problem with unmarried men appears to come primarily from their lack of investment in family life and in children. Young men without futures tend to engage in riskier behaviors because they have less to lose. And, too, they may engage in certain crimes to get wives—stealing to amass enough wealth to attract women, or kidnapping other men’s wives.

Ms. Copeland also addresses the effects polygamy produces for individual men, women, and children. These effects are consistently negative:

That polygyny is bad for women is not necessarily intuitive. As economist Robert H. Frank has pointed outwomen in polygynist marriages should have more power because they’re in greater demand, and men should wind up changing more diapers. But historically, polygamy has proved to be yet another setup that [harms] the XX set. Because there are never enough of them to go around, they wind up being married off younger. Brothers and fathers, realizing how valuable their female relations are, tend to control them more. And, as one would expect, polygynous households foster jealousy and conflict among co-wives. Ethnographic surveys of 69 polygamous cultures “reveals no case where co-wife relations could be described as harmonious,” Henrich writes, with what must be a good dose of understatement.

Children, too, appear to suffer in polygamous cultures. Henrich examines a study comparing 19th-century Mormon households, 45 of them headed by wealthy men, generally with multiple wives, and 45 headed by poorer men, generally with one wife each. What’s surprising is that the children of the poorer men actually fared better, proving more likely to survive to age 15. Granted, this is a small study, but it’s consistent with other studies, including one from Africa showing that the children of monogamous households tend to do better than those from polygynous households in the same communities. Why? Some scholars suspect that polygyny may discourage paternal investment. Men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin, and to make things worse, they’re compiling resources to attract their next wives instead of using it on their existing families.

For more on the benefits of intact, monogamous marriage for society and individuals, visit www.marri.us.

American Population Growing at Slowest Rate Since before the Baby Boom

economics, human capital, news, US population No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Reuters reports:

The population of the United States is growing at its slowest rate in more than 70 years, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Wednesday.The country’s population increased by an estimated 2.8 million to 311.6 million from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011. The growth rate of 0.92 percent was the lowest since the mid-1940s. “The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the Baby Boom,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said in a statement. Texas gained more people than any other state in the 15-month period, at 529,000, followed by California at 438,000, Florida at 256,000, Georgia at 128,000, and North Carolina at 121,000, according to the latest Census estimates. These five states accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population growth, the bureau said.

To read the full report, click here. Also, be sure to read the MARRI report “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital and Population Change” for more on the implications of the decline in population growth and human capital generation.

Marriage, Human Capital, and Our Fiscal Crisis

economics, family, human capital, MARRI, marriage, Pat Fagan No comments

Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage shows that the slowdown in economic growth we’re currently experiencing, coupled with the increased numbers of people dependent on the government, makes closing the deficit impossible for President Obama or anyone else who uses the present welfare state as the economic model to be sustained.

The continual slowdown in America’s GDP growth is explained by the decrease in marriage and families that are focused on children. As a nation, we’re no longer concerned with investing in our future by investing in the next generation. Our newest paper (linked above) demonstrates how stable married families and national economic growth are related.

What’s more, Our Fiscal Crisis is the first in a series of papers documenting original MARRI research about the development of skills, competencies, and know-how [human capital] across generations, and the family’s role in forming that human capital. In these papers, we’ll show how important human capital is to our modern, knowledge-driven economy and how indispensable the stable, married family is to economic prosperity. Be on the lookout for the rest of the series (to be released soon)!