Study: Strong Families Impact Economy

family collageA new report based on U.S. Census data from 1977 to 2012 has found that strong families have a direct and positive impact on the economy in the states where they live and work.

Penny Starr, writing for CNS, reports on the study, entitled “Strong Families, Prosperous States: Do Healthy Families Affect the Wealth of States,” which was released by the American Enterprise Institute for Family Studies (AEI). It found that strong families positively impact the local economy and that married parents raising children are better predictors of economic mobility, child poverty and median family income than other demographics such as race or education.

“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 report stated.

“In particular, left largely unexamined in the work of conservative economists such as Milton Friedman and Gregory Mankiw is how the emergence of a dynamic free enterprise system might depend on strong families and a vibrant civil society.”

The report also found a link between violent crime and family structure.

“Strong families reduce the odds that children – especially males – act out as teenagers and young adults,” the report stated. “More specifically, young men from single-mother homes are about twice as likely to spend some time in jail or prison than men from intact, married homes, even after controlling for family income and parents’ education race/ethnicity, and age.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) spoke ahead of panel discussions on the report and called what was happening to the American family a “genuine tragedy.”

“What’s happening now is a genuine tragedy,” Sasse said. “Not just for the individuals involved – we know that market forces and families are the two most important institutions in human history for lifting people out of poverty.”

Calling the decline of the traditional family “an existential threat to our country,” he went on to cite statistics from Johns Hopkins University research that showed 47 percent of women who gave birth in the year 2011 did so out of wedlock.

“To summarize, to the extent that states across the nation are home to strong families – especially as measured by the share of families headed by married parents – they enjoy above-average levels of economic growth, economic mobility, and median family income, and below average levels of child poverty,” the AEI report stated.

“Our review of research identifies four reasons why strong families are associated with economic prosperity at the state level: they boost male residents’ labor force participation and engagement in the labor force; increase economics of scale, efficiencies and saving for families; foster better educational labor force outcomes for children; and reduce the prevalence of crime and violence,” it added.

The report offers ideas for strengthening families such as ending federal and state policies that penalize marriage and assisting couples without drug or violence issues to avoid divorce.

The report was authored by AEI scholar and sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, along with economists Joseph Price and Robert I. Lerman, authored the report.

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