Strong families strong economies

6 Feb

More evidence concerning the most important but routinely ignored variable in social science.  From Patrick Fagan via the Public Discourse (the intro and conclusion):

Even if all the market reforms of the Washington think tanks, the Wall Street Journal, and Forbes Magazine were enacted, we’d still need to kiss the Great American Economy goodbye. Below the level of economic policy lies a society that is producing fewer people capable of hard work, especially married men with children. As the retreat from marriage continues apace, there are fewer and fewer of these men, resulting in a slowly, permanently decelerating economy.

When men get married, their sense of responsibility and drive to provide gives them the incentive to work much harder. This translates into an average 27-percent increase in their productivity and income. With the retreat from marriage, instead of this “marriage premium,” we get more single men (who work the least), more cohabiting men (who work less than married men), and more divorced men (who fall between the singles and cohabiters).

All this is visible in the changing work patterns of our country, resulting in real macro-economic consequences. Fifty years ago family life and the economy were quite different.

Around 1960, just prior to the sexual revolution, the United States was the world’s heavyweight champion in economic productivity and earnings. Today we can still lift a lot, but, to extend the metaphor, we are moving down to the middleweight class. My colleague Dr. Henry Potrykus has shown that divorce alone has reduced the annual growth rate of the economy by at least one sixth since the mid-1980s, which with its compounding effect is by now quite significant.

No matter which way you look at it—through the lens of income, savings, or poverty—marriage is the great engine of the economy, with every household a building block that either contributes or takes away, millions of times over. Put all these families together, and we have the team that runs the American economy.


The intact married family with children is the household that generates the productive work, income, and savings that purchase houses, food, cars, and clothing, use energy, send children to school, and save for college and weddings. It is of homes like this that the Nobel Laureate economist Gary Becker spoke when he said that “the mother at home raising her children contributes more to the economy than her husband out in the workforce.” If we want a vibrant economy, we must grow the best of children, just as the farmer who wants the best crops pays close attention to the timing of the seasons, and sows the best seed in the best soil he can.
Much like the farmer who neglects the basics, the peoples of Spain, Italy, and Greece have given up on traditional family life as the core of their culture and their future, and have vied with each other over the last few decades for the lowest fertility rate in the world. The finance ministers of the European Union (and the world) do not appear to have caught on to the economy-altering implications of this change, while we in the United States are well on our way to becoming a Spain, Italy, or Greece writ large, unless we again learn the fundamental law of the seasons of society’s regeneration, and the absolute necessity of the timely emergence of the young intact married family with children that worships God weekly.
But I suspect, as with crime and education, instead of identifying the main causes and promoting the best solutions, we’ll continue to fight over which color band-aid to apply to gaping wounds.
On another note, it is also necessary to point out that this problem is not clearly or easily addressed with the standard “movement” conservative lines (just cut taxes and unleash the free market).  Indeed, a case could be made that aspects of capitalism, as with an vast expansion of statist welfare policies and taxation, have contributed to the deterioration of the family.  This is something I’m currently looking into this possibility.  But as a classical conservative, the health of society and family is more important than unbridled capitalism.  The family is basic to human nature, part of the creational order, while markets are conventions of men and rightly subject to society’s control (same with the state).




4 Responses to “Strong families strong economies”

  1. John Morgan February 19, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    “With the retreat from marriage, instead of this “marriage premium,” we get more single men (who work the least), more cohabiting men (who work less than married men), and more divorced men (who fall between the singles and cohabiters).” I found that to be quite offensive. The number one reason American culture is in peril today is because marriage and family have have been placed on an alter of idolatry. It is homes like Apostle Paul’s where: “He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” The health of our society will continue on a terminal course of destruction as long as there is an imbalance between celibacy and marriage. John, St. Paul’s Call International


    • thereformedmind February 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      Thanks for commenting John. The quote you refer to is simply a summary of sociological facts. Honestly, he didn’t say as much as he could have. Single-men cause more crime and are the least fatherly to the children they sire, as well, both in addition to their relative idleness with respect to work hours. Not every single-man behaves that way (I would suppose the self-consciously celibate men do not, though I’m guessing). But simply reporting facts as he has done is hardly a reason to be offended.


      • John Morgan February 19, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

        And girls raised by single mothers are 200% more likely to mare children out of wedlock, end up on welfare without a job, and depend on other tax paying americans to foot their bills. Just the facts.


      • thereformedmind February 19, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

        I don’t doubt that fact


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