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  Executive Summary:

U.S. Social Policy Dependence on the Family Derived from the Index of Belonging

Henry Potrykus, Patrick Fagan

Using the 2013 Index of Family Belonging and Rejection we explore major federal and state public policy outcomes and show that government depends on the intact family for the achievement of its stated goals. Government will likely continue to fail to achieve its goals if it continues to neglect the reality of this dependence.

The Index of Family Belonging–the fraction of 17-year-olds who have grown up in intact families–is approximately 45 percent nationally. Regionally there is wide variation in the Index:
  • Portions of Middlesex County, Massachusetts; Bergen County and Hunterdon, New Jersey; and Nassau County, New York, have the highest Index of Family Belonging. In these areas, the Index of Family Belonging is around 70 percent.
  • Portions of Cuyahoga County, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Bronx County, New York; the District of Columbia; and Shelby County, Tennessee, have the lowest Index of Family Belonging. In these areas, the Index of Family Belonging is just over 15 percent.

Influence on Public Policy Metrics

Benefits of family intactness compared with benefits of education Public policy assumes, and needs no persuasion, that education attainment is a good to be promoted. The same assumption does not hold for family intactness. However:
  • Family intactness always has a beneficial influence on the outcomes measured.
  • Family intactness is roughly as important as high school education and more important than college education in influencing outcomes of public policy interest.
Influence of family intactness on need & dependency
  • Family intactness is the most important factor (or shares the place of greatest importance) in determining an area’s dependence on welfare programs that target organic poverty:
    • Receipt of food stamps,
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and state welfare transfers,
    • Supplemental Security Income transfers, and
    • Prime-age adult public healthcare recipiency.
  • Family intactness has the second-largest influence on overall diminishment of prime-age female, and child, poverty.

  • Family intactness has the strongest attenuating influence on teenage out-of-wedlock birth, itself a source of economic hardship.
Influence of family intactness & family size on education & income
  • Family intactness is very influential on high school graduation rates. It influences high school graduation rates more than does the fraction of adult college graduates in an area.
  • Family intactness and the fraction of adult high school graduates in an area have similar beneficial influences on prime-age male employment rates.
  • The ratio of children to adults in an area (larger families) has a large, positive influence on prime-age male employment, and it has the largest consistently positive influence on earnings of prime-age males in the area.
Low importance of race & ethnicity Once family intactness, high school drop-out levels and other demographic factors are taken into account, the fraction of blacks or Hispanics in an area rarely has a strong detrimental influence on the outcomes studied.
  • The fraction of the population that is Hispanic is normally a beneficial influence or shows no precise impact and has an adverse influence on less than one fourth of the outcomes studied.
  • The fraction of the population that is black has an adverse influence on approximately half of the outcomes measured and is otherwise a beneficial or indeterminate influence.


Federal social policy evaluations show myriad repeated failures to improve targeted outcomes. This report, based on the foundational work of the Index of Family Belonging and Rejection, breaks new pathways towards a reconceptualization of these failing social policies. The state has hitherto ignored the importance of the intact married family in shaping the outcomes of its social policies. This neglect of marriage is an error of historical proportions.]]>