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Why have we seen such large changes in American
family structure in the last half-century, and what are the consequences for our children and economy? On Thursday at AEI, three scholars presented their latest research on these important questions.
W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project and AEI described a growing crisis among American men who have lost their connections with core American institutions, including the workplace, religious congregations, and marriage. These socializing institutions are most consequential for the most vulnerable members of society, yet low-income populations have been hit hardest by family breakdown.
Mary Eberstadt of the Ethics and Public Policy Center explained that robust religious engagement and family life often go hand-in-hand. As more US couples have chosen to cohabit, divorce, or never marry, religious participation has decreased.
Former AEI fellow Nick Schulz acknowledged that talking about a breakdown in family structures can be uncomfortable, yet its harmful impact on children — and the economy — requires us to look more squarely at the facts. As Schulz states in his recent AEI book, “Home Economics,” it is impossible to understand income inequality in the United States without taking into account changes in family structure. These scholars launched a crucial discussion about some of the connections between healthy families and a healthy economy.
In the last 50 years, the percentage of US children raised by a single parent increased from 9 percent to 26 percent. According to Jason DeParle of The New York Times, for women aged 30 and below, out-of-wedlock childbearing has become “the new normal.” While in 1960 almost 70 percent of Americans aged 20 to 29 were married, today only 25 percent are married — and for those who do marry, the divorce rate remains high. How will these changes affect America’s workplaces, faith communities, and economy in the coming decades?
At this event, Mary Eberstadt, Nick Schulz, and W. Bradford Wilcox will discuss these and other recent changes in American family structure, examining important economic and cultural consequences on the horizon.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page and participate on Twitter using #AmericanFamily. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.
Join the conversation via Twitter using #AmericanFamily or comment below, no need to register an account.
Registration and Luncheon
Josh Good, AEI
Mary Eberstadt, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Nick Schulz, Former AEI Fellow
W. Bradford Wilcox, National Marriage Project and AEI
For more information, please contact Greg Lane at [email protected], 202.862.4879
For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.
Mary Eberstadt is a senior fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. She has published widely on gender issues, religious trends, and American culture in The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, the Los Angeles Times, the London Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Her newest book is “How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization” (Templeton Press, 2013). She is also author of “Adam and Eve after the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution” (Ignatius Press, 2013), “The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism” (Ignatius Press, 2010), and “Home-Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs and Other Parent Substitutes” (Sentinel, 2004); she is also the editor of “Why I Turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys” (Threshold Editions, 2007).
Josh Good is the program manager for the Values & Capitalism initiative at AEI. Good previously spent four years as a consultant at ICF International, where he worked on a pair of responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage initiatives alongside Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare officials. He also worked on a national public-private partnership that served ex-prisoners in collaboration with congregations and businesses. His publications have appeared in National Review, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, Patheos, The American, Capital Commentary, and elsewhere.
Nick Schulz was the DeWitt Wallace Fellow at AEI and editor-in-chief of American.com, AEI's online magazine focusing on business, economics, and public affairs. He is the author of “Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Structure” (AEI Press, 2013) and is the coauthor, with Arnold Kling, of “From Poverty to Prosperity: Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities, and the Lasting Triumph over Scarcity” (Encounter Books, 2009). He has been published widely in newspapers and magazines around the country, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Slate.
W. Bradford Wilcox is a visiting scholar at AEI. He also directs the National Marriage Project and serves as associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. Before coming to the University of Virginia, he held research fellowships at Princeton University (where he continues to serve as a member of the James Madison Society), Yale University, and the Brookings Institution. His research focuses on marriage, parenthood, and cohabitation and on the ways that gender, religion, and children influence the quality and stability of American marriages and family life. He has published widely about marriage, cohabitation, parenting, and fatherhood in the American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. His research has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and many other media outlets.