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Strong Families Mean Richer States

wedding-rings-moneyfrom – www.aei.org – By W. Bradford Wilcox & Anna Sutherland

New research shows people who live in locales that have more married-parent families also enjoy higher incomes and economic mobility overall.

Economics has its roots in the Greek word oikonomia, which means the “management of the household.” Yet economists across the ideological spectrum have paid little attention to the links between household family structure and the macroeconomic outcomes of nations, states, and societies.

This is a major oversight because, as a new report from the Institute for Family Studies and the American Enterprise Institute shows, marriage and family patterns are important factors in states’ economic performance. “Strong Families, Prosperous States: Do Healthy Families Affect the Wealth of States?” shows that higher levels of marriage, and especially higher levels of married-parent families, are strongly associated with more economic growth, more economic mobility, less child poverty, and higher median family income at the state level in the United States.

In fact, in a comparison between the ten states where parents of children under 18 are most likely to be married and the ten states where parents are least likely to be married, the authors discovered that being in the top quintile is associated with a $1,451 boost in per capita gross domestic product, 10.5 percent greater upward income mobility for children from lower-income families, a 13.2 percent decline in the child poverty rate, and a $3,654 higher median family income.

These estimates are based on models that control for a range of factors—from states’ demographic characteristics to their tax policies and spending on education—that might otherwise confound the family-economy link at the state level. The figure below illustrates the relationship, for instance, between child poverty and the strength of family life in 30 states across the United States.

Wilcox1

To put those numbers in perspective, the percentage of parents who are married in a given state is typically a stronger predictor of the state’s economic mobility, child poverty, and median family income than are the population’s education level, racial makeup, and age composition.

Four Potential Explanations

What dynamics underlie this link between family structure and positive economic outcomes? “Strong Families, Prosperous States” presents data to support four theories:

1. Labor force participation: Marriage and fatherhood appear to motivate men to work harder, which boosts their family’s income and has ripple effects that benefit the entire economy. Married men work about 400 hours more and make about $16,000 more per year than otherwise-similar single men, and they are less likely to quit a job without lining up a new one.

The following figure illustrates the connection between family life and men’s participation in the labor market. Married women with children under 18 are less likely to work than their unmarried and/or childless peers; however, at least at the macro level, the economic gains associated with married fatherhood exceed the losses associated with married motherhood.

Wilcox2

2. Household economics: Families headed by married parents benefit from income pooling, economies of scale, and specialization and exchange more than families in unmarried households. Married parents also receive more financial support from their own parents than do cohabiting couples or single parents.

3. Human capital accumulation: Children raised in intact, married families have access to more income, more parental attention, and more parental affection, and they are less likely to suffer parental abuse or neglect than children in other types of families. It is not surprising that these childhood benefits pay off down the road: Children of continuously married parents are more likely to graduate from high school, earn college degrees, and to be gainfully employed as young adults.

These patterns at the individual level carry over to the state level. States with a greater share of married parents boast substantially higher graduation rates, even after controlling for states’ median income, race/ethnicity, education level, and age composition, as the figure below shows. To the degree that states keep children who have benefited from strong families within the state as adults, they should reap economic gains.

Wilcox3

4. Public safety: Strong families reduce the odds that children—especially males—act out as teenagers and young adults. In general, fathers provide discipline, an extra pair of eyes to monitor children’s behavior, and a model of appropriate male behavior that helps children and young adults steer clear of trouble with the law.

The pattern at the family level is again evident at the state level. The link between families and crime rates has implications for the economy: High levels of crime engender significant public-sector costs, inhibit male labor force participation, are associated with less economic mobility for lower-income children, and otherwise drag on the economy.

Through pathways such as these, strong families help states to prosper and give children a better shot at achieving the American Dream.

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Ruth Smith
5 years ago

A healthy family meets basic needs for each member for: safety; physical provision of shelter, food, clothing; a place to love and be loved; a place of acceptance and security where we are ‘special’ and belong; and provides opportunity to grow toward becoming the person we can be. We need families with married parents for economic, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Families are important and our culture needs to oppose attitudes, laws, actions, or persons who work to weaken family life.

Elaine Foster
5 years ago

I have been more and more convinced that the break down of our families since the 1960’s seriously contributes to our increasing prison population, our alcohol and drug problems, the dumbing down of our education and all sorts of other problems, too. I am so thankful for my good husband and our 41 years together and our four prospering children and their families!

Cliff
5 years ago
Reply to  Elaine Foster

Elaine, you are correct, the break down of our families in the 1960’s and the removal of prayer in schools has accelerated the moral decline and turning people away from the worship of God.

Marti
5 years ago

Richer states = Richer USA!

Rich
5 years ago

Rik, why are you still in CA anyhow?! We have all kinds of guns in AZ and absolutely no gun control laws at all. Open carry, concealed carry, no permit required, etc. Our idea of gun control is using two hands instead of one to better aim a .357! Better hurry and pack Rik before they pass a law that you cannot leave the state!

Rich
5 years ago

I couldn’t agree more w Tedd on the separation of church & state regarding many things but especially marriage. Marriage should be totally up to religious institutions or even to Las Vegas marriage palors. Takes a low IQ clerk like Kim Davis out of the picture as well!

Dave
5 years ago

Rich, in California, don’t people like you call people that are producing children, Breeders?

alcie smith
5 years ago

As a Family and Consumer Sciences professional (home economics) this article reminded me of the heart of my profession, to strengthen families. As a former FACS teacher, I taught parenting and child development placing a huge emphasis on fatherhood, I know my students are better parents because of these classes. Please, readers, advocate for Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum in your high school.

Tedd Kunkel
5 years ago

Families with mom and dad coupled with a strong marital union are not politically correct. In fact, the success rate of such unions make them a slap in the face to the democrat party. I can see such unions in the future being taxed at a higher rate as a penalty for being ‘hater’ status against the liberal progressive homo pervert community that Obama and the dems espouse.

DA
5 years ago
Reply to  Tedd Kunkel

The fruits of the communist movement, as manifested via lbjs ‘war on poverty’ and ‘great society ‘, are nowhere more evident than in the black population. Thomas Sowell has written extensively on the subject of how the black family was systematically degraded by govt policy starting in the sixties. He documents marriage and out of wedlock birth rates to have been roughly the same across ethnicities till the sixties, when the govt began rewarding women for having kids without fathers around. This has enabled the govt to create dependency on itself. This state of affairs is tragically evident when young males reach puberty with no stable role model. Such role models are not optional. The single mother suddenly finds her son, previously content to be her loving child, an uncontrollable hellion. She feels confusion, betrayal, anger. The kid looks for males who are strong; who demonstrate male values. He finds these, all too often, in criminal gangs. He is embraced into a culture that will usually lead him to disaster, but he does so because no woman can provide what he needs. Tragedy? No. Tornadoes are tragedies. This is the deliberate destruction of human potential in furtherance or political agendas.

Ivan Berry
5 years ago
Reply to  DA

Yes, and well stated, DA. Socialism in all its guises attains political change by first changing the culture. Perversion is the new norm and dependancy the new system that has made children of us all under the rule of Big Momma Government. There are no real men around any longer, just little boys and girls hanging on Big Momma’s skirt tail. Welcome to our New World of disorder.

Chuck
5 years ago
Reply to  Ivan Berry

And a Happy New Year to you, too!! :-))

Rich
5 years ago
Reply to  DA

No doubt DA the government has had a role in creating dependency. But I never thought that the “reward” was something anyone would ever aspire too, unless they simply had no choice. These unwed moms are horribly trapped and taken advantage of. These women need our help desperately, not our judgement!

DA
5 years ago
Reply to  Rich

Hi rich. By reward I mean the amount of compensation received from the govt increases the more fatherless children are produced. Yes, these people are trapped and there are various aspects to this, including cultural factors which often prevent breakout. I have learned much from Thomas Sowell and recommend his works highly. Also, the works of Ruby Payne provide crucial insights into the plight of people trapped in vicious cycles of generational poverty and govt dependence. I doubt if many people could be found who wouldn’t want to come up with a solution to these problems. The question is whether we continue with programs that make the problem worse or start listening to others who recommend different approaches.

Rik
5 years ago

Heck, in my dung drenched state of California, our Communist governor just signed into law that the police can now come into any citizen’s home, lawbreaker or not, and seize your guns. … I guess he wants a “gun free” state … We all see how that’s worked for “gun free” cities, like Chicago, but then again, the citizenry doesn’t need protection from a well run Communist government that thinks that families are nothing more than zombie factories to do their will.

jack1466
5 years ago

In my home state,the political arena(s),think a rich state means more money in THEIR own pockets.

Rich
5 years ago

Now that more gay couples are getting married it should contribute to even stronger & richer families! The more married couples we have the better for our country. Thank God for the Supreme Court of the US for helping us out here!

Tedd Kunkel
5 years ago
Reply to  Rich

If you believe that then never look at the stats, it will depress you. Furthermore, marriage is not a function of government or the courts. Why do libs constantly whine about separation between church and state and then want marriage and enforced by government? Illogical, unless there is an alternative agenda at play. It is all too easy to see through. I would rather my opponent have more of an IQ.

Rich
5 years ago
Reply to  Tedd Kunkel

Thanks for responding Tedd.
I agree that it would be nicer to have opponents w a higher IQ.
Libs are notorius for not being the sharpest knife in the drawer.
I would be interested in the specific depressing references you cite. Even if both parents are gay but pledged to; devoted to; & married to each other that has to be better for children than a struggling single parent on crack in the ghetto!

Rich
5 years ago
Reply to  Tedd Kunkel

I’ll bite Tedd. What is the alternative lib agenda at play here?! You must be giving a lot more credit to a low IQ opponent that you let on. (:-)

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