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family matters
Married Parents, Stronger Students

Social science often delights in being counterintuitive, in ginning up findings that defy our pre-existing expectations. Sometimes, however, studies produce results that are not particularly eye-catching because they conform with our intuitions. (And in this disorienting age, those findings can be particularly valuable.)

Today’s example: A new paper finds that students in communities with a higher number of married parents perform better in school than students in communities with weaker family structures (controlling for other demographic factors, of course). From the Institute of Family Studies blog:

A new report published today … highlight(s) the significance of family structure to the academic success of both boys and girls in Arizona. Co-authored by IFS Senior Fellow W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Zill, Strong Families, Better Schools finds that the presence of more married families in a school district is not only linked to higher graduation rates overall, but also to greater gender parity. This means that boys in Arizona are more likely to graduate, and to graduate at levels that parallel those of girls, in districts with more married families. In fact, the share of married families is a better predictor of high school graduation rates and gender equality in Arizona public school districts than are child poverty, race, and ethnicity in those districts.

As the authors note, their findings reinforce David Autor’s findings that boys, for whatever reason, feel the brunt of the impact from family breakdown. It may be that most children raised in single-parent families are raised by their mothers, and boys’ academic and social development is especially dependent on the presence of a male role model. To compound the problem, fatherlessness leads boys to be less academically and economically successful, more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system, and therefore less likely to get married themselves.

Most of all, the study provides concrete evidence of the benefits of a two-parent family structure—if not to parents, to their children—at a time when cultural liberals are increasingly inclined to dismiss it as an anachronism. It’s not. The evidence continues to build: If we are concerned about social equality and the well-being of children—particularly disadvantaged ones—supporting and encouraging family-formation should be a high priority.

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  • Tom

    Yes, but that would require acknowledging that their parents were right.
    And American liberalism, at least in its social aspects, is little more than poking a stick in the eye of one’s parents.

  • Boritz

    I still think Friends was a great show.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Of course. And family formation is supported and encouraged primarily by social policies which make family economics actually work. Dad, in order to be the positive role model, has to have a sense that if he works, he will prosper with sufficient resources to take care of the family and exude the self-respect of being able to do so. The boys have to see this occurring and want to do likewise. At present, a great number of Dads are not “there” and have no realistic path to getting “there”. The idea that all marriages are an okey-dokey goal, even those where Dad is so frustrated that he wants to beat the heck out of everyone in sight, verbally or physically, is not valid by itself.

    • Tom

      Correction: Since Lyndon Johnson.

      • FriendlyGoat

        You COULD write your own thoughts instead of just piggy-backing on mine, you know.

        • Tom

          I did. Your failure to read comments other than your own is not my problem.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I read it and DIDN’T piggy-back on it. There is also the matter that I actually said something coherent and you didn’t.

          • Tom

            I’m terribly sorry, but coherence isn’t measured by how much you agree with someone.
            You, for example, are usually coherent, even though you’re also usually wrong.

          • FriendlyGoat

            If you had even the most rudimentary capacity to be “terribly sorry” about anything, you would have awoken this morning with the firm resolve to mind your own business and peddle your own peanuts.
            That would mean having original thoughts and not seeing your mission in life to be the provider of “Correction” (yes, I’m actually quoting your reply to me) to other people. Buzz off, Tom.

          • Tom

            FG, let me be blunt here. You telling me to develop original thought is the equivalent of a man in a glass house using a trebuchet. For that matter, so is your entire post.
            Your unwillingness to accept that other people disagree with you and have good reasons for doing so is not actually the sign of understanding and knowledge that you believe it to be.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I have no interest in “letting you be blunt” or, for that matter, any control over it. You are already blunt and probably have been so most of your life. The question is why aren’t you minding your own business?

          • Tom

            Because this is a public forum, FG. As such, everything here is the business of everyone here. If you don’t like that, that’s not my problem.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You can keep spewing and I can keep suggesting you do something better for yourself, for me and the rest of us. I suppose you seriously think that I am embarrassed or hurt about my posts because you, Jim, Snow, JR, f1b, Fat Man, Seattleoutcast and some others take issue. You guys actually give me writing fuel. Somebody has to be an adult in a room and it might as well be me.

          • Tom

            I actually don’t think that you’re ashamed of your posts, because I’m not an idiot. What legitimately confuses me is that you don’t seem to realize that we regard you as you regard us.

          • FriendlyGoat

            And you don’t seem to realize that debating you guys is not my motivation for being here. I don’t really “know” any of you (thankfully). I am constantly challenging myself to make the most possible sense to myself. I don’t expect it to get a stamp of approval from the right wing. It would be nice, though, if any of you hacks were trying even half as hard to speak sense independently as you are trying to whack on me. Whatever. I learned decades ago that most of political conservatism is just immature character hiding behind something else.
            The apologists for Trumpism are proving this on the national stage, and my own pack of jackals is proving it here in the comment section. The more one tries to find a balanced truth in public, the more some people hate ya.

          • Tom

            FG, the martyrdom act won’t wash. If you could manage to get a single thought out regarding domestic politics that didn’t come out of the DNC platform it might be possible to take your first paragraph and last sentence seriously.
            Frankly, based on what I’ve observed in online interactions, you really don’t have a leg to stand on regarding invidious statements about conservatives vis-a-vis the left.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Did you know that I have not even read this year’s Dem platform? I come to these places and I write my thoughts. It’s far more simple than you believe. My legs to stand on are my own, not the DNC’s and not yours.

          • Tom

            You don’t have to. You think like the writers.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I “think like” an independent citizen—–because I am one. You should try it. It’s not the same as paying the gazillions to Limbaugh, Hannity (or even Dobson) to define your world while your mental gremlins tell you to nod like the old artificial drinking birds.

          • Tom

            I already do. Because, you see, I listen to none of your boogeymen.

          • Anthony

            FG (pardon the interruption), two items to share for whatever it’s worth: 1) beliefs (false, contrived, inherited, assumed, etc.) are tough to change when they are linked (consciously or unconsciously) to both ideology and self-identity; 2) in a highly polarized environment, with echo-chamber media, political debates often become shrill because commentators and advocates have strong incentives to argue what they think benefits the politics of their group – people (whether admitting or not) care about their groups.

            “People are quite good at challenging statements made by other people but not so good at challenging their own beliefs (it’s their possession and they generally want to protect it, not have it challenged with the risk of losing it perhaps).”

          • Jim__L

            Not buying it. There would be some daylight between you and the Democrats’ platform, if you were independent.

            You’re more brainwashed than anyone who listens to talk radio.

          • Jim__L

            FG, you should be embarrassed by your posts because they’re blindly partisan and completely lacking in independent thought.

            That would be true whether or not anyone pointed it out to you.

          • seattleoutcast

            I don’t think you are embarrassed or hurt. I think you are angry that someone challenges you.

          • seattleoutcast

            FG gets mad when people comment on his comments. Like many on the left, he doesn’t understand that the right to publicly declare one’s opinion means that someone has the right to challenge that opinion.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Griping and sniping is a LOT easier than making sense from a blank sheet. You should try the latter sometime.

    • Fred

      There are a couple of slight flaws in your argument here, FG. First, during the Great Depression, when economic conditions were far worse than they are now, marriage declined slightly but not nearly to the degree it has in the last 50 years while the divorce rate actually decreased, and that small decline rapidly rebounded after the Depression. Second, the current decline in the family began in the 1960s, one of the most prosperous periods of our history, and has continued through both bad (1970s and late 2000s to early teens) and good (1980s, 1990s, and early to mid-2000s) economic times. Clearly, economic conditions are not the only, or even the primary, drivers of that decline. It has also continued through the administrations of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. If my arithmetic is correct, that’s four Democratic presidents and five Republicans. The party in control of the White House has no correlation with family breakdown. So clearly you are wrong there too. I’ve done some research (and can provide links if you wish), and there is no correlation whatsoever between tax rates and indicators of family breakdown like divorce, single parenting, and out-of-wedlock births. There is, however, virtual simultaneity between family breakdown and the sexual revolution, as well as such triumphs of liberal social policy as the Great Society, the Griswold decision, legalized abortion, no-fault divorce, banishment of religion from the public square, and the rise of feminism. While it is true that correlation does not necessarily prove causation, in this case the fact that the correlation tracks so well with common sense and predictions by conservatives since the 1960s is pretty solid evidence that there is more than a coincidental relationship between social liberal policies and family breakdown. You’re not a stupid guy FG, but sometimes your ideological blindness is staggering.

      • Jim__L

        Bravo!

      • FriendlyGoat

        1) The very best people wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat are doing so just because they would like better more-livable jobs for themselves, their family members, their friends and maybe even for every Joe Schmoe who they don’t even know. They do not realize that the more they cut the taxation of those who are ALREADY out-trading them, the more they increase both the magnet for themselves to be out-traded and also provide the tools for that grim reality to be accomplished. It’s difficult to get the ownership class to even spend deductible pre-tax money on “being nice” (compassionate conservatism) to the working class. It’s absolutely impossible to get it to spend after-tax free cash in any such manner. (Please note that I am sparing you any observation on my part about what is motivating the less-best people wearing the MAGA hats.)

        2) Every day we are alive in the modern era is a day that we are “post” any or every message or trend in culture which has occurred before. I don’t know why television went from The Andy Griffith show to Married With Children to Modern Family to whatever most questionable example you could name in this fall season. I don’t know why people now prize tattoos. I don’t know how to address the addictive lures of porn, video games, guns and social media. But this cultural stuff is out there and it is in constant motion.
        As best I can tell, those and most of the other negative cultural influences on young men are driven by somebody making a buck in the private sector and not by feminists or the social policies any good feminist has supported in the past or would support now.

        • Jim__L

          If you’d like to be able to say anything other than “I don’t know”, OPEN YOUR EYES!

          The party you support so blindly has been pushing that way for DECADES!

        • seattleoutcast

          Why can’t it be both? Why can’t it also be the Frankfurt School and Marcuse who pushed such phrases as, “If it feels good, do it?” thus ushering in an era of hedonism and rampant drug abuse in our culture that has eviscerated much of our old moral code?

          I think most people would agree that those “making a buck” are responsible for part of it, but not all. Yet you will never admit that your side is also to blame.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I have actually never heard ANYONE from the right agreeing that the profit-making private sector has caused or created ANY of the problems associated with the so-called “culture war”. My arguments to that effect are original with me (even if someone else has made them and I am unaware that they did because I didn’t even read them, much less copy them). You are truly the first and it’s gratifying to hear you say that you think “most people” might even agree. Consider that Fred, above, put some obvious thought and effort into his post—–but couldn’t or didn’t admit any such thing. It was all “the Great Society, the Griswold decision, legalized abortion, no-fault divorce, banishment of religion from the public square, and the rise of feminism”.

          • seattleoutcast

            Corporations will follow the money. Pushing debased shows on TV shows the rampant cynicism of many executives. They have absolutely no morals.

            Adam Smith wrote his Theory of Moral Sentiments along with his Wealth of Nations, and said that you can’t have a free market without moral people.

            But I still don’t see you admitting that your side might even be partially responsible. Why is that?

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, if I admit that liberals are partially responsible, will conservatives also put on the table some ideas for keeping corporations from “following the money” (as you say) with the effect of social deterioration? Sound utterly bi-partisan. If you and I went up to Congress as polar-opposite partners from adjacent districts, would we get the time of day for compromise on a mixed agenda? Or would our respective caucuses tell us to sit down and shut up?

          • seattleoutcast

            I will always say the best answer to this mess is to let the states handle many of the issues. There is far more accountability when states and local municipalities are involved. Lobbying will be reined in as politicians and corporations will be under more scrutiny. The drawback (for some) is that with more autonomy, states will follow the will of their citizens rather than national organizations. For example, Washington State will get its marijuana while Louisiana will ban abortion. If we can’t accept this result, we will never get out of the mess we are in.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Oh, dear. And I thought we were on the way to being partners. As far as I’m concerned, the federal government should either legalize marijuana—–OR—-tell Washington state to fuggedaboud the weed. One or the other. The feds could repeal all federal weed laws and leave weed to the states—–but it hasn’t done that. Until it does, the liberal states on weed should be standing down.

            The Supreme Court branch of the federal government already told Louisiana it may not ban abortion over 40 years ago—-because such removals of womens’ rights are not just “okay” by a state legislature just because it’s a state legislature.

            Weed and abortion are both suitable matters for determination at the federal level. On the weed issue, “pretending” to have federal prohibition on it is absurd. It should be either federally legal or not, period.

          • Jim__L

            You contradict yourself — even in a post where you say that the federal government “could repeal all federal weed laws and leave it to the states”, you ignore that case, saying “It should be either federally legal or not, period”.

            You are incapable of imagining anything other than Federal laws. You are at heart a tyrant, like the rest of your Leftist breed.

          • FriendlyGoat

            A federal government (Congress) which purports to maintain the illegality of marijuana for the whole country—-AND—–leave the issue to the states at the same time is dysfunctional on the issue. If conservatives in the Congress believe marijuana should be a state matter, they should repeal the federal prohibition. If they don’t, then someone (perhaps our Supreme Court) should be resolving the issue against the marijuana states (at least the “recreational” marijuana states) by declaring those states’ permissions invalid due to federal law. Sitting on the fence or passing the buck around is very poor service to citizens.

          • Jim__L

            He’s a shill for the Democrats, that’s why. He’s their mouthpiece. He’s incapable of independent thought.

          • M Snow

            I’m from the right and I made that point explicitly several months ago to FG. He has a short memory.

          • Boritz

            The private sector in the guises of Hollywood in Silicon Valley do immense harm wiith their political contributions and in the case of Hollywood with a lot of there their cultural contributions. The private sector in the guise of the mainstream media by abandoning the concept of a fourth estate and becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party are doing more than immense harm.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I know you want to believe that only liberals are culture polluters, but the entire history of the Fox Network (not just Fox News, the entire Fox entertainment business) proves otherwise. Likewise all the right-wing shareholders in all the other companies.

        • Fred

          Correlation may not prove causality, but lack of correlation certainly proves lack of causality. I have shown there is no correlation between economic conditions and indicators of family breakdown, no correlation between presidential party and those indicators, and no correlation between tax rates and those indicators, all the factors you claim are responsible for family breakdown. There is, however, exact correlation between liberal social policies and the indicators of family breakdown. I ask you, which of those is the best candidate for a cause? It’s not brain surgery FG, it’s just elementary logic, which you have not even made an attempt to answer.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You have not shown that family breakdown is attributable to the governmental policies which actually help families—-as you are seeking to allege. C’mon Fred. By your political preferences, you are asking me to believe that the more you take opportunity and support away from families and breadwinners and send it to the Mar-a-Lago Club instead, the stronger they all will somehow be. I don’t, and you shouldn’t.

            http://www.maralagoclub.com/

          • Jim__L

            Let’s start simple: welfare that prefers to support unmarried women, encourages women to be unmarried.

            Welfare that supports unmarried women (and unmarried men) tends to weaken marriage by removing incentives for it.

            Then, reaching back to his original point — marriages were far, far stronger in previous generations where unemployment was even worse — eliminates for any but the most partisan mind any connection between economics and marriage rates.

            Your ideology is blinding you, FG. Throw it off! Allow yourself to look at the evidence!

          • FriendlyGoat

            You really should be debating this with women—–and I wish you were.

          • Boritz

            Yes. One of the best management articles, actually one of the best articles ever written was Steven Kerr’s On the Folly of Rewarding A while Hoping for B.

      • MarkE

        Very comprehensive, but the Lyndon Johnson Administration seems to me to be the ignition point. First he started the Vietnamese War on basically false premises which resulted in radicalizing and polarizing the boomer generation. Second her engineered the Great Society welfare program that destroyed poor families by forcing and then enabling the desertion of fathers from their families. We are still paying for these huge misjudgments and can’t seem to find our way back to a more consensual and conjugal place.

        • Fred

          Well, I certainly wouldn’t discount the baleful effects of the perverse incentives provided by the welfare state, but ultimately, I think the issue is more social, cultural, and spiritual than economic.

          • Jim__L

            The Left wants to replace all social, cultural, and spiritual issues with economics. They’ve thought that way since Marx.

            How else can one understand their sneering slogan “those people vote against their own interests”?

          • Fred

            I agree completely. Problem is, a large segment of the Right now, including libertarians and Club for Growth types, also tend to dismiss social, cultural, and spiritual issues and consider GDP the be-all and end-all of politics.

  • Proud Skeptic

    There is an old saying about such studies…”Either they confirm the obvious or they are wrong.”

    • Jim__L

      Your response is perfect to their opening line…

      ‘Social science often delights in being counterintuitive, in ginning up findings that defy our pre-existing expectations.”

      • Josephbleau

        “Never commit a social science, and if you do, wash your hands afterwards.” an old statistician.

  • seattleoutcast

    More obvious evidence that familial institutions, which have been around for tens of thousands of years is essential for proper child rearing. Yet the result of government programs such as AFDC is to undermine those institutions. Is it any wonder that many poor children are under-performing in schools? And boys suffer more? Who cares, say the feminists.

    • Josephbleau

      It is common to say that man has been evolved for the Plains of Africa, or Evolved for Self Preservation. Is it a surprise that man is evolved to prosper in a way that has been re-productively successful in the past? WOW we say the cave man diet is great, but the statement that Tarzan likes Jane makes Tarzan better is just ridiculed.

      • Jim__L

        Political Correctness demands that evolutionary psychology be held in contempt.

  • Fat_Man

    Cisheteronormative propaganda.

    • Josephbleau

      I prefer “cis/pan-shehe” that will make books longer and sell more paper and ink.

  • Matt_Thullen

    Liberals have long practiced the worst type of hypocrisy, in that they live their own lives in alignment with values that they publicly trash. Stable, two-parent homes consisting of the biological parents, regular church attendance, attention to schooling, abstaining from drug use and other destructive behaviors have been shown to produce better outcomes not just for the parents, but for their children as well.

    Yet many liberals decry these values in our society in favor of a radical individualism that promotes self-satisfaction and non-judgmentalism. Where are liberals in combatting the mentality in inner-city communities that trying hard at school is “acting white”? Where are liberals trying to reverse a divorce culture that promotes one parent leaving when they feel “unfulfilled” in the marriage? The only time liberals in politics or culture pipe up on these issues is to condemn conservatives who have been shouting about these behaviors for decades.

    • Jim__L

      The cynical side of me figures that limousine Leftists want the women raising their children to be stable, and the rest to be sexually available.

      See: the Clintons.

  • f1b0nacc1

    So Charles Murray was right….

  • Andrew Allison

    Cliff notes version: social science studies are either intended to be counter-intuitive (and prove irreproduceable) or confirm the obvious. In other words, garbage.

  • Josephbleau

    I think the Authors have cause and effect reversed. Bad boys cause family breakdown, not the reverse.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Embrace the healing power of “and”

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