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Executive Summary:

Fifth Annual Index of Belonging and Rejection

Index Highlights

  • The Index of Family Belonging—the percentage  of U.S. teenagers aged 15 to 17 who have grown up with both biological parents always married—is 46 percent. The biological parents of the remaining 54 percent are either no longer married, or never did marry.
  • Since 1950, the Index of Belonging for U.S. teenagers has decreased by 17 percent (from 63 percent to 46 percent).
  • The Index of Belonging is 17 percent for Black teenagers compared to 54 percent for White teenagers. This marks a 21 percent decrease in family belongingness for Black teenagers since 1950, and a 13 percent decrease for White teenagers.
  • Family belonging has decreased for children of every age, both White and Black, between 1950 and 2012.

Introduction

The Index of Family Belonging and Rejection compares the rate of 15- to 17-year-old children who have grown up in always-intact families with those who have grown up in broken families. Based on 2008-2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey [1], the U.S. Belonging Index is 46 percent and the corresponding Rejection Index is 54 percent. This means that 46 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 17 have lived with both biological [2] parents always married since their birth, whereas 54 percent of teenagers aged 15 to 17 have lived in broken families with biological parents who either never married or are no longer married. [3]

Family structure profoundly impacts the lives of children. Seventeen-year-old adolescents on the brink of adulthood are particularly vulnerable as they are forming habits and making decisions that will last a lifetime. Whereas family intactness fosters an environment of belonging among youth that increases their likelihood of exceling in education, health, economic security, and religious practice, family brokenness creates a sense of rejection that can thwart proper growth. [4]

The Fifth Index of Belonging and Rejection measures family intactness across the race [5] and age [6] of children. In addition, the report compares the 1950 Index with the 2012 Index to capture the trajectory on which our nation heads.

The Black Family Index of Belonging is 17 percent, while the White Family Index of Belonging is 54 percent.Among both Black and White adolescents, the likelihood of facing rejection increases with each year of age.

Since 1950, the United States has experienced a decrease in intact families and a rise in broken families. Between 1950 and 2012, the U.S. Index of Belonging [7] dropped from 63 percent to 46 percent, the White Index of Belonging [8] decreased from 67 percent to 54 percent, and the Black Index of Belonging [9] fell from 38 percent to 17 percent. This decline in family intactness has affected children of every age.

The American family is in a crisis. Our nation’s children, especially our Black children, are being robbed of their married biological parents. “The State of the Black Family in America,” [10] a complementary report to the Fifth Index, coalesces the personal and societal repercussions of brokenness in the Black community. Rectifying these ills will first and foremost require a restoration of the intact married family.


[1]Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek, “Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database],” (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010)

[2] There may be a certain percentage of mothers who marry a man that is not her child’s biological father within two years of her child’s birth. Although the American Community Survey does not differentiate these cases, their infrequency renders them a relatively small fraction of intact families.

[3] Due to the method of data categorization in the American Community Survey, it is difficult to obtain an exact Index value. Refer to http://marri.us/index-correction for a technical explanation.

[4] marri.us/effects-divorce-children

[5] In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”, the Fifth Index compares Whites, Blacks, and the total population. For a more detailed analysis of the state of the Black family, see marri.us/state-of-black-family. For trendlines on all races and ethnicities, see marri.us/publications/family-trends

[6] The Index statistic was calculated for each age, 2-to 17-years old. The statistics for 0-and 1-year-old are different in that they give the percent of children whose parents were married in the year of the child’s birth.

[7] The 2012 U.S. Index has a precision of somewhat better than a half a percentage point. The 1950 Index has a precision around three percentage points, plus or minus. Refer to http://marri.us/index-correction.

[8] The white population Index has a precision of somewhat worse than a half a percentage point. Refer to http://marri.us/index-correction.

[9] The black population Index has a precision of just better than a percentage point. Refer to http://marri.us/index-correction.

[10] marri.us/state-of-black-family