Strong Families, Prosperous States

I want to begin by talking about the conventional wisdom. From Hollywood to the halls of academia, we often hear the message that marriage doesn’t matter. Kids and families, we are told, need not enjoy the shelter and security of a married home to thrive. Take, for instance, Jennifer Anniston, who said, “Women are realizing it more and more: knowing that they don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child.” Or in the book Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men, which celebrates women who have had boys without fathers, the Cornell psychologist Peggy Drexler said that “Women possess the innate mompower [sic] that in itself is more than sufficient to raise fine sons.” And this Pollyannish message is also taken up by some in the media. Last year, for instance, Matthew Yglesias at Vox gave explicit voice to the idea that the decline of marriage isn’t a problem for women, children, and the country as a whole. Of course, the only problem with this new conventional wisdom about marriage and family life is that it’s not true. This is indicated by some of the highlights from the newest research I’ve done with the economists Joseph Price and Robert Lerman, research that underlines the connection between marriage and the economic health of states across the country.[1] Let’s begin this conversation by considering how it is that marriage matters in this country of ours. A publication just out from Princeton and Brookings demonstrates how marriage is connected to the welfare and well-being of our kids. More specifically, “reams of social science and medical research convincingly show that children who are raised by their married biological parents enjoy better physical, cognitive, and emotional outcomes on average than children who are raised in other circumstances.”[2] Clearly, the social science is telling us that kids are more likely to flourish when they are raised in intact m
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