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.
In Bay Minette, Alabama, non-violent offenders are now given a choice: to work off their fines in jail and pay a fine, or go to church every Sunday for a year. So what will it be in this either/or situation of prison and church?
How about just church and no prison? The Alabama law recognizes the powerful influence of religion and church attendance, and rightly so. Studies show that only 5% of children who currently sit in the pews at least once a weekare at some point arrested, compared with 11% of those who never attend church. Even a little religious attendance helps behavior: only 7% of children who attend church at least once a month are arrested.
Not only does religion work to minimize the risk of arrest: Byron Johnson of Baylor University and colleaguesexamined data from the National Youth Survey, and they found that the greater the religious involvement of black youth, the lower is the occurrence of “serious crime,” including felony assault, robbery, felony theft, prostitution, and selling drugs.
We will see how effective the Alabama law is at reforming or dissuading criminals in the future. But the numbers tell the story: religious attendance is beneficial for society.
A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights the plight that many—if not most–young black women face: the literal dearth of potential marriage partners. Ralph Richard Banks, himself a black man and law professor at Stanford University, spent time traveling the country, interviewing black women to hear their story and why black women have fewer marriage options. He ultimately concluded that there is a lack of competent and suitable black men to go with the numbers of educated and successful black women.
The two main problems with black men, Banks concludes, are incarceration and lack of education. Of the more than two million incarcerated men in the U.S., 40% of them are African-American, with more than 10% of this number made up of black men in their 20s and 30s.
Educationally (and, in turn, economically), black men also fall behind black women. According to Banks, by the time graduation rolls around, black women outnumber men 2 to 1. And for graduate school in 2008, there were 125,000 African-American women enrolled—compared to 58,000 men.
That there are too few black men who are the social equals of black women answers the “why” of the marriage situation. But there is a further, deeper reason behind why there are too few marriageable black men. This answer goes into the families of the black men themselves.
According to the General Social Survey, youths from always-married families are only 10% likely to be picked up or charged by the police, compared with 17% of youths from non-married families. Children from always-married families are only 13% likely to steal something, compared with 22% that only live with one parent, and 18.8% who live with never-married parents. Similarly, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, children who live with two married parents are 7.7% likely to shoplift, compared to 12% of children who live with only one parent.
Children from always-married families do better in school, as well, with a combined math and English GPA of 2.9, compared to 2.5 GPA of children from never-married families.
If children from married, two-parent families are less likely to commit crime, and more likely to have better educational outcomes, it is no wonder that the black family is falling behind. Only 17.4% of black children grew up in married, two-parent homes (compared with the national average of 45.4%; for comparison, 62% of Asians grow up in married, two-parent families). Statistically, these 17% of black children are the ones who will have the best life outcomes, but it is no wonder that there are so many black women looking for husbands. While the article suggests interracial marriage as a temporary solution for black women, if things are going to turn around for the long haul, the simple recipe is parents who keep their promises to one another.
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).
Welcome to my blog! My name is Pat Fagan, and I am the Director and Senior Fellow of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), a project of the Family Research Council. We at MARRI are working to equip scholars, parents, pastors, journalists, and the educated layman with social science products they can use to reshape the debate on where our county is heading in its social capacities. We are interested in equipping all with the data needed to defend and win full freedom for faith and family.
On this blog, I will discuss new social science books and research, as well as our latest synthesis papers and other research from MARRI. Our goal at MARRI is to bring the two great loves to the fore in the social sciences—the love of spouses for one another (closest neighbor) and the love for God. These two loves drive society’s growth or decay, and therefore have profound public policy implications. Our federal data system permits us to track these (somewhat primitively, but we track them nonetheless).
I’ll be heading to Australia in two days for the annual national conference of the Australian Family Association and to meet with Australian family leaders in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Stay tuned for stories, photos, and information from down under!