The American Enterprise Institute has issued a report titled "Strong Families, Prosperous States: Do Healthy Families Affect the Wealth of States?" that provides ample evidence that, when we talk about economics in the U.S., we should also talk about families.
The report was prepared by W. Bradford Wilcox, a visiting scholar at AEI, head of the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project, and a member of on IWF's panel on the future of marriage. Here are some of the basic findings:
- 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.
- The share of parents in a state who are married is one of the top predictors of the economic outcomes studied in this report. In fact, this family factor is generally a stronger predictor of economic mobility, child poverty, and median family income in the American states than are the educational, racial, and age compositions of the states.
- The state-level link between marriage and economic growth is stronger for younger adults (ages 25–35) than for older adults (36–59). This suggests that marriage plays a particularly important role in fostering a positive labor market orientation among young men.
- Violent crime is much less common in states with larger shares of families headed by married parents, even after controlling for a range of socio-demographic factors at the state level.
Government programs do a bad job of promoting families. As was noted at the IWF panel, a George Bush administration initiative aimed at promoting marriage, for example, had neglible effect.
That doesn't mean we should stop trying through policy, but I'm with IWF's Rachel DiCarlo Currie, who, while supporting policy initiatives, recognizes that the key to reviving marriage is a "massive cultural shift."