Intact Families – Not Government Social Programs – Most Beneficial to Children and Society, Group Finds

By Penny Starr | February 12, 2013 | 8:43pm EST

Patrick Fagan, director of the Family Research Council's Marriage and Religion Research Institute, spoke on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, D.C., about the benefits of traditional families for children and society. ( Starr)

( - Children raised by their married, biological mother and father have better lives and rely less on government programs, a pair of studies by a family advocacy group finds.

The Index of Family Belonging and Rejection measured the number of children being raised by their married parents in U.S. cities and states, and the report, “U.S. Social Policy: Dependence on the Family,” correlated those statistics with dependence on government social programs like food stamps and welfare.

Both were released by the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) on Tuesday.

“Its power is massive,” Patrick Fagan, director of MARRI, said of the intact family’s impact on society.

Fagan said with what he calls the “retreat of marriage” in modern society, scholars and others realize anew that the institutions of marriage and family are cornerstones of Western civilization.

Nicholas Zill, co-author with Fagan of the index, spoke of the event as it relates to Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech by President Barack Obama.

Nicholas Zill, who co-authored an index on American families with Fagan, spoke on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, D.C., about the benefits of traditional families for children and society. ( Starr)

“On a day when the president is about to report on The State of the Union, it is fitting to ask, ‘How many young people in the United States get the benefit of a stable, two-parent upbringing?’ Zill said. And, ‘How does this vary across areas of our country and groups in our society?’

“Answers to these questions give an indication of how well our public and private institutions are functioning to encourage and support strong families and provide young people with happy and nurturing childhoods,” Zill said. “Answers to these questions also tell us something about prospects for the future success of the U.S. as a nation.”

The government, the study argues, should advance the benefits of the traditional family in the same way it promotes the benefits of education for individuals and society at large.

The study concludes: “The state has hitherto ignored the importance of the intact married family in shaping the outcomes of its social policies. This neglect of marriage is an error of historical proportions.”

According to the study and index (based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey) from 2008 through 2010, 45 percent of children ages 15-17 have grown up with their married, biological parents across the nation.

Other findings include a ranking of U.S. states by the number of 15- to 17-year-olds being raised by their parents, with Utah ranked No. 1 with close to 60 percent of its family’s intact and raising children. Mississippi ranked the lowest, with just over 30 percent.

In rankings of the largest 45 U.S. cities, the top three cities for intact families raising children were San Jose, Calif., (56 percent), Seattle, Wash., (54 percent), and San Francisco, Calif., (53 percent).

The lowest-ranking cities were Memphis, Tenn., and Washington, D.C., with 17 percent, Baltimore, Md., with 16 percent, and Cleveland, Ohio, with 15 percent.

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