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Religions Freedom

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The Pew Research Center is a major social science resource for the nation. Its Religion and Public Life sector has produced some very informative and tellingly illustrated reports. Earlier this year they produced Restrictions and Hostilities around the World.  It is worth noting that in this ranking the U.S. does not rank number one in religious freedoms.

Last year, their comparative report on increasing levels of hostility to religious people and their practices illustrates the growing and very large percentage of the world’s population that lives under such conditions.  

Parental Religious Influence

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Parents’ religious practice benefits not only their children’s faith but also their well-being. This has become increasingly apparent over the last decade as research on religious practice has increased.  David Briggs of the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) illustrates five benefits of religious belief and worship on parents and teens:

The family that worships together supports one another: Youth who go to church with their parents appear more likely to experience higher psychological well-being throughout adolescence. The study analyzed data on 5,739 young people from the 1992–2006 waves of the Child and Young Adult Sample of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

Building social skills and parental trust: Adolescents who converted from no religion to affiliating with a religious group were more likely to have higher social skills than those who left their faith. The study of 209 adolescents and their primary caregivers also found youth who held on to their faith scored higher than those who gave it up on measures of parental communication and trust as well as social competence.

Developing healthy relationships offline: College students who reported high levels of religious belief and practice were more likely to form strong relationships with peers and less likely to search online for porn or watch pornographic movies.

Finding ecstasy in all the right places: Young men who believe in God and practice their faith were less likely to abuse alcohol, smoke or take illegal drugs, according to a study analyzing data from a sample of 5,387 Swiss men approximately 20 years old. Being affiliated with a religion also predicted healthier choices in most cases.

Developing compassion amid privilege: Even young people fortunate enough to have all their material needs met can find resources to overcome the psychological malaise often associated with affluent teens, according to a new study.

Well-off adolescents who were highly religious and spiritual at age 18 were likely to hold on to a strong spiritual and religious life at age 24. This in turn was associated with fewer signs of depression, higher life satisfaction and greater compassion for others.

Religious Expression

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In a collaborative study with five professors from five different universities (Simon Fraser University, University of Maryland, University of Hawaii and Michigan State University), doctoral student Sooyeol Kim found that employees who openly discuss their religious beliefs at work are often happier and have higher job satisfaction than those employees who do not:
… employees who valued religion as a core part of their lives were more likely to disclose their religion in the workplace. Employees who felt pressure to assimilate in the workplace were less likely to disclose their religious identity, Kim said.
But most significantly, the researchers found that the employees who disclosed their religion in the workplace had several positive outcomes, including higher job satisfaction and higher perceived well-being.
“Disclosing your religion can be beneficial for employees and individual well-being,” Kim said. “When you try to hide your identity, you have to pretend or you have to lie to others, which can be stressful and negatively impact how you build relationships with co-workers.”

Military Suicide Rates

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Over the last decade, the Armed Forces have become increasingly hostile to religious liberty and also have a record suicide rate. Restoring religious liberty and encouraging religious practice would significantly improve the mental well-being of our nation’s soldiers, as religious practice delivers fundamental benefits to mental well-being.
Threats to religious liberty in the Armed Forces have amplified in recent years. In June 2011 Christian prayer was banned at military funerals, and in September the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center declared, “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” The prayer and Bible bans were eventually reversed but other religious liberty violations have continued to emerge.  In 2012 the Army censored Catholic chaplains, and the Pennsylvania Army Reserve training document labeled Evangelical Christians and Catholics as “extremists.” In 2013 the Army ordered soldiers to remove crosses and steeples from a chapel in Afghanistan, and an Air Force officer was forced to remove a Bible from his desk because it “‘[might]’ appear that he was condoning a particular religion.” These are only “the tip of the iceberg”. Last Thanksgiving an Army chaplain was punished for telling his suicide-prevention class how his faith helped him counter depression, and this past May a Marine was sentenced to bad-conduct discharge for displaying three Bible verses at her work-station.
During this time of increased religious censorship, suicide rates amongst deployed soldiers and those who have never fought grew. In the last three years of World War II, the Army peaked at 10 suicides per 100,000 soldiers; between 1975 and 1986 the Army averaged 13 suicides per 100,000 soldiers; in 2011 the Army reported 23 suicides per 100,000 soldiers—more than twice the number of suicides during the World War II era. These suicides reflect a poignant truth: American soldiers struggling with mental difficulties are not adequately taken care of. 
Religious liberty is a requisite to ensuring that our service men and women are mentally healthy. MARRI research shows that religious worship is correlated with greater happiness, a greater sense of purpose in life, and a positive morale. More frequent religious attendance predicts less distress among adults, and membership in a religious community enhances coping skills. A review of more than 100 studies found that religious participation is associated with a reduced risk for depression, and 87 percent of studies surveyed concluded that religious practice correlates with a reduced incidence of suicide.

As hostility to religious practice grows in the military grows, depression and suicide rates are simultaneously reaching new heights. No secular course or counseling session can offer the consolation that religious practice provides. Furthermore it is free. If military commanders sincerely desire to improve the mental well-being of our country’s soldiers, they will not only allow our armed forces to freely worship God, but will even encourage it. 

Japan’s Foreboding Demographics: Lessons for America

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By Henry Potrykus

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta published an important paper a little while ago on “The Implications of a Graying Japan for Government Policy.”  The title rather understates demographics’ fiscal gravity.  The analysis within the paper does a better job.  Here I relate the findings to those of us here in the West in a four-part development: ‘context,’ ‘strengths,’ ‘weaknesses,’ and ‘implications.’  You might want to skip down to “implications” if you just want the highlights.  The ‘context’ to follow also makes for relatively easy reading.  ‘Strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ will not be for everyone.  They contain economics, which is a practical necessity – the paper is on economics.

Context

Japan is not the United States.  Critically, Japan did not have a post-war baby boom.  Instead, its realized family size was high just before the War.  This is the main way in which Japan is a forerunning first-world economy.  Germany and other Western European countries will follow Japan’s demographics, and then we’ll have our own run of it.

Japan had exceptionally strong trade surpluses (Current Account surpluses; like Germany does).  Remember worrying about Japan owning the US?  Worry about that anymore?  Even more important than that penchant for over-seas saving (which is being cashed-in on), is that Japan controls its own debt:  Japanese savers (future retirees) buy Japanese paper. 

Thus, as a demographics “policy experiment,” Japan might be considered an ideal case:  The fiscal picture – issuance and redemption of bonds; payout of pensions; and the whole fiscal balance sheet – is centrally manageable.  I am sure there are benefits to the US having the reserve currency of the world.  Control over federal bond auctions is not one of them.  (A lot of swaps have to be written between a lot of interested parties to “control” that market.)

Watching Tsunami footage also shows one how unified Japan is in caring for its elderly.  (In this case that means watching 60 year-olds take care of 80 year-olds.)  So, again – Japan has a relatively manageable problem.  By way of comparison, Western states see incipient riots over public pension changes.

Perhaps that’s not a perfectly fair comparison, but, in one way, Japan’s problem is more urgent; in another, it is less so. In the latter sense, Japan may just be able to smoothly reallocate and reduce its population’s consumption and so avert Argentina-like fiscal crises.  There is more on this in the ‘implications’ section.

Strengths

With this paper, finally, economists get demographics.  The paper models populations moving through the life cycle.  Cohorts are born, grow up, get to working, retire, and die. 

It should be obvious that when one wants to understand the fiscal picture of a state, enumerating aging populations is required:  The picture for entitlements (think Social Security and Medicare; Japan has its analogs) is determined by whom you tax (workers) and who receives remittances (retirees, who, except in special circumstances, have not yet died).  The fiscal picture for welfare states (like our own) is driven by their entitlements.  This holds especially for Japan.  (Allow me to throw our generous poverty programs in here, and the statement becomes general, and air-tight.)

Another “strength” is the simplicity and constancy by which the modelers treat the Japanese credit markets.  This will be controversial to some (in particular, the public behaves “non-Ricardian”).  What I find important is that interest rate spreads are held constant.  Rate spikes (“runs”) that might take place – perhaps at any time – are not considered.  (See below for other credit events.)  In this sense, the central bank helps the government manage its debt burden well

Weaknesses

Many economists will find the dynamic model, with its perfect foresight, etc., to be a strength of the paper’s analysis framework.  You say strength, I say assumption.  Certainly it is good to attempt to model how people will shift their behaviors (“dynamically”) to changes in government policy like pension generosity and tax increase.  Without further comment, let’s just say, “how do you know, quantitatively?”

Two quantitative parts of the analysis that are real, powerful factors in determining future fiscal economics are the rate of productivity growth (“total factor” productivity of the macro economy, irrespective of capital or labor contribution) and the fertility rate (rate of growth of the population). 

The analysts treat the first term optimistically.  I am being generous here (as they are, to Japan):  Japan had a “lost decade” in the 1990s, and the hoped-for productivity recovery didn’t materialize in the 2000s.  I link this phenomenon to demographics in “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital and Population Change.”  (The term “total factor” means, precisely, that it is not so-linked in other analyses.  The present analysis’ real departure is more subtle, however, again, because this work gets demographics “right.”)  So, then, Japan has had two lost decades.

Productivity (irrespective of capital and labor) is especially important in systems where capital is crowded-out by an all-consuming public sector (trust for a little while that I am not being alarmist here; we’ll return to it as we go into ‘implications’ below), and labor declines (a demographic hole).

So, optimistic views of productivity can help us gloss-over public-sector rapacity and labor collapse.  In other work I [and others] analyze on how labor collapse can be the harbinger of economic depression.  Other think tanks have spilt plenty of ink on public-sector encroachment.  Maybe I should weigh-in myself sometime.

If the first term is treated optimistically, the second term is treated fancifully.  Japan will rediscover its lost desire to have families, we are told.  Now, Japanese sociology deserves its own study, which I haven’t done yet!  But, closer to home, there are plenty of sociologically compelling reasons to ignore fairy tales of demographic recovery.  It is obvious that population replacement affects the fiscal picture, quantitatively.  (Sensitivities vary.  See the next paragraph and the ‘implications,’ below.)  But I have another, seriously wonkish point to make here:  The authors desire closed, solvable systems (in a very formal sense; they need so-called “transversality conditions”).  I think it’s time we jettison silly assumptions that dictate family recovery and start accepting the solution that asymptotes to zero.  The former is nowhere indicated by any of our real social policies anywhere.  Zero is a mathematically serious number.  It is fiscally serious too.

One will note that even without more reasonable demographics, the study still finds that there is nearly one pensioner for every working-age Japanese individual (by around 2090).  Let’s get into the ‘implications’ of that.

Implications

If Japan doesn’t reform its “Social Security” and “Medicare” system (they don’t use our terms), nor its tax system, they would have to raise consumption taxes to never-witnessed levels; likely beyond 55 percent. This must happen before 2040, which turns out to be an annus mirabilis – see below. 

That’s more than half of consumption, taxed away, if they just kick the can.  If Japan raises taxes quickly to the required level (by 2018; remember this is “quick” by public standards), that level “only” needs to be 35 percent or so.  The welfare-state paradises of Denmark and Finland have value-added taxes of about 25 percent.  Higher levels (still below the needed 35 percent) are hardly seen.  This, and the resistance to Prime Minister Abe’s comparatively small consumption tax increases, pretty much signals the infeasibility of this line of reckoning.

Obviously, what is going on here is that there are many retirees.  Workers need to be taxed as much to ensure enough money is transferred to keep the pensioners at their current (and expected) standard of living.  I have heard people say that this does not “necessarily” constitute an inter-generational inequity, but I personally find that to be a tough horse-pill to swallow.  I’ll let you decide; but let’s look into those inequities.

First, the study goes through other ways to balance the budget.  (The government is given the chance to do this in the long run; I’ll go into what this entails in two paragraphs.)  Besides substantial “Medicare” copays and deeper cuts to pensions, the analysts also consider cuts to other government programs.  For the US that would mean cuts to defense and poverty programs.  Of these ways, it turns out that increased copays look the most fair.  That is, the other balancing techniques have sometimes impressively large net income redistributions between the generations.  These can be something like 10 percent or more of lifetime income. I would imagine most would consider these rather large inequities.  Lowering pensions doesn’t level the playing field much from the (massive) consumption tax increases posited in the work. 

In pretty much any case, big inter-generational transfers are afoot for Japan, and about any other first-world country with similar welfare-state programs.

Now back to why 2040 is an annus mirabilis.  Elsewhere, Congressman Paul Ryan (referencing the CBO) mentioned an interesting phenomenon in fiscal modeling:  When the going gets tough, sometimes you can’t find a budgetary solution!  For the present study this happened at debt-to-GDP ratios below 4.  What this means is, if you don’t change taxes or spending or both by enough and soon-enough (see above) there is no path forward for the government fiscal apparatus.  Of course, this trusts, to a certain extent, the completeness of the computer’s algorithm in finding solutions.  Let’s soft-peddle that wonkish issue and say these algorithms are “reasonably good” at doing their job (searching for and finding a budgetary solution over time, if one exists). 

If that is the case, and the simulations reasonably mirror reality (they aren’t out-of-this world, I assure you; re-distributable GDP doesn’t fall from helicopters, after all), doing nothing up to 2040 means creating a set of real fiscal flows that cannot be sustained long term.  ‘Fiscal flows’ here means pension outlays, medical payments, programs, taxation, and bond issuances and payments.

This failure (“epic fail,” the younger generations once said) is the simulation analog of the situation where compounding interest payments take up more and more of government income.  That is, the government must float more debt just to pay interest on debt.  At that point (interest compounding), things get out of hand fast, and it is safe to say a credit event will occur.  For everyone apart from Dr. Krugman and maybe the Kirchners, this is a bad thing. 

For this post, because we are happily dealing with the easier and insular Japanese case, it means the necessity of a radical restructuring of how pensions and medical care are financed.  That is, the system doesn’t work.  But remember what we’re interested in studying is (Japanese) systems that do function.  This requires raising taxes, and also – see above – reducing program generosity.  (I tacitly assume one cannot realistically jettison the welfare-state apparatus, which, given what political interests are, is a Libertarian fantasy.)

It turns out things are worse.  Those earlier (high taxation) solutions already had gradual reductions in a reformed pension payments system baked-in.  I’m sure Prime Minister Abe fought hard to make those reforms reality.  Our system has these reductions baked-in too; it’s called the Trust Fund, and I’m sure it will prove a battle-ground in time as well (cf. Greece, Detroit).

So, even that reduction is not enough.  The authors of this important paper find Japan also needs a “Medicare” copay of 30 percent, in addition to (touching) Denmark’s rate of taxation.  Well, I guess we know what the future looks like. 

Except, it will probably be worse.

Academia and Marriage

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Last week MARRI decried the Supreme Court’s ignoring of the data in the same-sex marriage case. This week we decry a related corruption in academia:  the project of shutting down comparative research on same-sex couples, marriage, and parenting.  The American Psychological Association, The American Sociological Association, and the National Council of Family Relations are all participating in this project.
Below we quote from the American College of Pediatricians’ amicus brief. This excerpt is one example of the type of research not found in the journals of these organizations. As a result, this research is not making it into the academic discourse of most social science departments in the United States. Below we include graphs from the amicus brief that give the reader some idea of what is being deliberately kept out of the academic discourse. While no data are the final words, the following information comes from datasets repeatedly used in research articles in journals published by the associations mentioned above.
There is a need for a phrase that labels this corruption of the social sciences in the United States – a nation founded on the concept of freedom. We suggest: “Academic Jacobinism”. Pass this research on to students and professors you know for they are unlikely to have been exposed to this body of research. (Underlining added.)
Despite being certified by almost all major social science scholarly associations—indeed, in part because of this—the alleged scientific consensus that having two parents of the same sex is innocuous for child well-being is almost wholly without basis. All but a handful of the studies cited in support draw on small, non-random samples which cannot be extrapolated to the same-sex population at large. This limitation is repeatedly acknowledged in scientific meetings and journals, but ignored when asserted as settled findings in public or judicial advocacy.
Of the several dozen extant studies on same-sex parenting in the past two decades, only eight have used a random sample large enough to find evidence of lower well-being for children with same-sex parents if it exists. Of these eight, the four most recent studies, by Dr. Mark Regnerus, Dr. Douglas Allen and two by Dr. Paul Sullins, report substantial and pertinent negative outcomes for children with same-sex parents. The four earlier studies, by Dr. Michael Rosenfeld and three by Dr. Jennifer Wainright and colleagues, find no differences for children with same-sex parents because, due to errors in file coding and analysis, a large portion of their samples actually consists of children with heterosexual parents. When the sample used by Wainright’s three studies is corrected of this error and re-analyzed, these data also show negative outcomes for children with same-sex parents similar to those reported by Regnerus and Sullins. More importantly, they also show substantially worse outcomes for children who have lived an average of ten years with same-sex parents who are married than for those who have lived only four years, on average, with unmarried same-sex parents.
The family arrangement envisioned in same-sex marriage is generally understood to be the condition of actually having two parents of the same sex, not opposite-sex parents who may or may not be in a same-sex relationship with someone outside the home. Instead of comparing heterosexual parents with same-sex parents, Wainright et al’s three studies compared a group of heterosexual parents with another group of (mostly) heterosexual parents. It is not surprising they found “no differences” in child outcomes between these groups, since they are, for the most part, the same group. The findings of these three studies do not apply at all to same-sex parenting and form no reasonable basis to conclude that children of same-sex parents are not disadvantaged.
Re-analysis of the Wainright studies data, after correcting the sample flaws, reveals that adolescents with married same-sex parents fare worse than those with unmarried same-sex parents. …
Comparing the married and unmarried same-sex parents with their opposite-sex counterparts, Sullins found that, while outcomes for children with opposite-sex parents improved if their parents were married, outcomes for children with same-sex parents were notably worse if their parents were married.
Bar charts below … illustrate the results. Asterisks by a number in the charts indicate that it can be inferred with confidence to the U.S. population of adolescents; the more asterisks, the greater the confidence.

You can read the entire brief here.


Mental Health and Chasity

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In a recent professional seminar discussion on the relational dynamics of chastity and monogamy  with mental health professionals in Arlington VA a powerful concept came to the fore:  the centrality of relationships to the life of each person.  A person’s life is as good as the relationships he or she has formed.  
The most powerful human relationship is that of marriage. One therapist noted: “In lots of our work the marriage is the client. We often treat the marriage not the individuals.”  That this relationship is quite sensitive to the lifelong chastity of the couple was the focus of much of the discussion.
 As the charts on the demographics of sexual partnering were reviewed the conclusion drawn was that chastity is the virtue which gives sex its due. The sexual relationship, fundamental to the continuance of the human race, will go powerfully in one of two different directions: binding the couple forever in love and fidelity or instead leaving the permanent weakness of a bond that ended in rejection.  Chastity leads to the first; multiple partners lead to the second. The following chart shows the percent of stable marriages as relating to the number of sexual partners experienced.
The demographic data on the US population tells a sad story: the impact of rejection after sexual coupling is writ large across the United States and continues from one generation to the next as the following chart illustrates. Whether a father leaves and when he leaves has a big impact on his daughter by the time she reaches her teens.

The generations of the United States are weakening as marriage relationships become more unstable and rejection among parents spreads.

Close Mindedness

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Almost thirty years ago Allan Bloom wrote the wakeup call to America with the Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students.  All of those students who were students then have grown up and a number occupy chairs of sociology in our leading universities and sadly are now an even more problematic part of academia.  

Nowhere is the closing more obvious, more openly practiced than in sociology when the issue is one relating to sexuality:  be it abortion, contraception and, these last few years, on homosexuality. 

It is a given in all sciences that the most important data is the data that does not ‘fit’ the preconceptions of practitioners and commentators in a field.  It is the most important because it is from such data (once confirmed as reliable) that new insights arise.

It is also a given of human nature that data which disturbs preconceptions will be resisted by most, because of entrenched ideas, attitudes or interests.  However it is the role of the sciences to foster amongst its aspiring practitioners intellectual habits and attitudes that will override these normal reactions.  But in American sociology the opposite is the case when the sacred cows of sexuality are crossing the street.  In this case, not only are these normal human proclivities not eradicated, instead they are aggressively fostered and formed in undergraduates, doctoral candidates, post-doc researchers and young untenured professors. They are all being shaped to not pay any attention to contrary data on the sexual.  Should they dare to do so they will suffer the consequences that range from failing grades, denial of entry to graduate school or tenure or publication. No American journals now carry contrary data in the area of homosexual parenting since the Regnerus dust-up as no editor wants to suffer the harassment James Wright, eminent editor of Social Science Research suffered, nor any professor to suffer as Regnerus did.  

The bullying is not subtle. Yet it is effective and, in the land of the free, has closed down the debate on campus.  The grandchildren of the “greatest generation” are no match for the “thought-dictators” in this sector of the social sciences. But contrary data can never be made non-contrary. It just is. It just will be.  It will continue to be the prime way forward in the discipline.  It is a respecter of no political alliance, right, left or center.  It cannot be. It will always be a thorn.  And a boon to true science. 

Abortion and Breast Cancer

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month—an occasion to promote knowledge about the disease and commemorate those who have battled it. But in the hoopla of pink ribbons and 5k runs, a vital medical fact has gone unnoticed by the mainstream media: Abortion is an independent risk factor for breast cancer.
To the great detriment of women, this fact is little known. Radical feminists have successfully hijacked breast cancer awareness month as a time to spur their liberal propaganda, and have bullied a handful of breast cancer organizations into doing the same.
However, the biology of the breast confirms that induced abortion is indeed a risk factor for breast cancer. In developmental biology a lobule, or a unit of breast tissue, can undergo four stages. An infant is born with Type 1 lobules. After puberty, the number of Type 1 lobules increases, and some Type 1 lobules become Type 2 lobules.  Both Type 1 lobules and Type 2 lobules are vulnerable to cancer. During the first half of pregnancy, the number of Type 1 and Type 2 lobules greatly increases. However, around 20 weeks after conception, these cancer vulnerable cells mature into cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules. After 32 weeks of pregnancy, sufficient Type 4 lobules have developed that a mother is protected against breast cancer, and she begins to incrementally gain the benefit of risk reduction that will maximize at 40 weeks. By the end of a normal pregnancy, 70 to 90 percent of the mother’s breast is composed of cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules. After birth and after a mother has lactated and breastfed, Type 4 lobules regress to Type 3 lobules, which retain the epigenetic changes that protect against the development of cancer. With each additional pregnancy subsequent to her first, a woman’s risk of breast cancer will decrease another 10 percent.
Therefore, disruption to a pregnancy—and the corresponding termination of lobule development—can leave a woman with an excessive amount of Type 1 and Type 2 cancer-vulnerable lobules that have not yet maturated.  As a result, an induced abortion (presumably prior to 32 weeks) as well as a miscarriage in the second trimester increase the risk of breast cancer.
In the case of an induced abortion, the woman’s breasts contain an increased number of cancer-vulnerable Type 1 and Type 2 lobules, but hav not yet developed cancer-resistant Type 4 lobules. The longer a woman is pregnant before an induced abortion, the more cancer-vulnerable Type 1 and Type 2 lobules she will develop.
A miscarriage (also known as spontaneous abortion) may increase a woman’s risk factor for breast cancer, depending on when the miscarriage occurs. First trimester miscarriages do not increase the risk factor for breast cancer. First trimester miscarriages generally occur because a woman has not produced enough estrogen and progesterone to sustain the pregnancy. These low levels of estrogen and progesterone are also insufficient to stimulate breast development (ie. increase the number of Type 1 and Type 2 lobules). However, a second trimester miscarriage does increase a woman’s risk factor for breast cancer. These miscarriages generally occur due to physical abnormalities. Therefore, the breasts have an increased number of Type 1 and Type 2 lobules that have not yet matured into Type 4 lobules. Sadly, the same applies to premature deliveries prior to 32 weeks.
Because radical feminists distort this information, millions of women have been deprived of basic knowledge of medical care. However, the Marriage and Religion Research Institute is committed to empowering women by providing the facts and statistics for them to make their own informed decisions. Therefore, we have composed two easily accessible reports on the abortion breast cancer link: first, “Induced Abortion and Breast Cancer (Short version)” summarizes the most important biological facts about the link; second, “Induced Abortion and Breast Cancer” delves into specific scientific explanations. Both reports include easy-to-read diagrams, and explain why studies claiming to debunk the abortion-breast cancer link are fatally flawed.

Children and Happiness: What is the Link?

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By: MARRI Intern

What does an ideal family look like? Two parents, one daughter, and one son? Two cohabitating adults and no children? Christians place high value on family and children, which often leads to sizably larger households, benefitting all of society. As one MARRI publicationindicates, larger families (of 3 or more children) contribute more to the economy than families with two or fewer children. Unfortunately, few couples of any religious or secular traditions choose to have more than two kids, citing economic woes or other factors. But because children make parents happy, shouldn’t more couples opt to expand their families anyway? Not necessarily. 
If a couple based their child-bearing decisions merely on what makes them personally happy, what would they choose? According to Gross National Happiness by Arthur Brooks, they might reasonably choose not to raise any children. From Brooks’ research, it may be claimed that offspring do not in fact to make parents happy. If you’re skeptical, just read the angry comments from two parents who, by the gamble of in vitro fertilization, are pregnant with twins and are less than thrilled about it. Though the backlash from other readers might suggest these parents are an anomaly, their anger towards their twins seems to verify Brooks’ research. His findings claim that “marital happiness takes a nosedive as couples move from childlessness to having their first baby; it continues southward until about the time the oldest child starts school” (Brooks 64).
The more surprising finding, however, is that for parents with more than four children, reported happiness levels climb back up with each subsequent child. Following this trend, parents with eight children report the same level of happiness as couples with only one child. Brooks’ assessment reflects MARRI’s, in that these parents create a different type of family based on their beliefs. And while very few couples opt for more than two children at all, those with four or more kids tend to be affiliated with a religion that highly values children and family life (such as Catholics, Evangelicals, or Mormons).
Lest he leave couples determined to never bear children, Brooks makes an important qualification about the happiness factor: For both Brooks (and MARRI), it is clear that though children may appear to make parents less happy in the moment, these longsuffering mothers and fathers serve a crucial role in developing future citizens. Children give parents meaning, a feeling more akin to the “moral quality of life” than to elation (Brooks 69). And while the joys of parenting feel more like misery than euphoria at times, the purpose-filled experience of parenthood leaves mothers and fathers satisfied with their childrearing work, a feeling far more enduring that luxury or leisure.