Strong families, prosperous states: Do healthy families affect the wealth of
October 2015 | AEI and the Institute for Family Studies
W. Bradford Wilcox, Joseph Price, and Robert I. Lerman
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- 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. Comparing states in the top quintile of married-parent families with those in the bottom quintile, we find that being in
the top quintile is associated with a $1,451 higher per capita GDP, 10.5 percent greater upward income mobility for children from lower-income
families, a 13.2 percent decline in the child poverty rate, and a $3,654 higher median family income.
- The share of parents in a state who are married is one of the top
predictors of the economic outcomes studied in this report. In fact, this family factor is generally a stronger predictor of economic mobility, child
poverty, and median family income in the American states than are the educational, racial, and age compositions of the states.
- The state-level link between marriage and
economic growth is stronger for younger adults (ages 25-35) than for older adults (36-59). This suggests that marriage plays a particularly important
role in fostering a positive labor market orientation among young men.
- Violent crime is much less common in states with larger shares of families headed by
married parents, even after controlling for a range of socio-demographic factors at the state level. For instance, the violent crime rate (violent
crimes per 100,000 people) sits at 343 on average for states in the top quintile of married parenthood, whereas those in the bottom quintile average a
rate of 563. This is noteworthy because high crime rates lower the quality of life and real living standards and are associated with lower levels of
economic growth and mobility.
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