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Effects of Family Structure on Policy Outcomes

Original Research: U.S. Social Policy Dependence on the Family

The United States Family Belonging Index is 46 percent, with a corresponding Family Rejection Index of 54 percent, based on 2008-2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.1) The action of parents determines the Family Belonging or Rejection Index within a nation, region, state, or racial or ethnic group—whether they marry and belong to each other, or whether they reject one another through divorce or other means. Rejection leaves children without married parents committed to one another and to their children.

The Index of Family Belonging is determined by the fraction of children aged 15 to 17 in a given area who live with both their biological parents, who have been married since before or around the time of their birth.

The government depends on the intact family for the achievement of its stated goals. Government will likely continue to fail to achieve its goals if it continues to neglect the reality of this dependence.

1. Methodology

This original research examines the influence of certain demographic, educational, and economic variables– including the Index of Family Belonging–on social outcomes of policy interest (See Table 1 below for a list of the outcomes studied).

Table 1: Social Outcomes of Policy Interest
Teenage out-of-wedlock- births, fraction of all births

In effect, researchers developed empirical models determining the influences of the explanatory variables (Table 2) on these outcomes as seen across Census geographic areas. The models show the relative importance of these influences, meaning both precision about2) and magnitude of each influence.

1) Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek, “Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database],” (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010).
2) Precision has a formal meaning. It indicates how clearly determinable (distinguishable from zero) an influence on an outcome is. This is depicted graphically in the Methodology appendix.