May 13, 2004

May 13, 2004 | News Releases on Family and Marriage

"Culture of Rejection" Endangers Families, Analyst tells Congress

WASHINGTON, MAY 13, 2004-The breakdown in marriage over the last 50 years carries a cost: America has evolved from being a "culture of belonging" to being a "culture of rejection," and its children are suffering as a result, an expert in family and cultural issues at The Heritage Foundation told Congress today.

"National survey data repeatedly show that the most positive outcomes are in those families where the parents have always belonged to each other and to their children: the intact married family," Patrick Fagan testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. These families are less likely to live in poverty, less likely to depend on welfare and more likely to grapple with addictions to drugs and alcohol, among other problems.

Take yearly income. Among the charts Fagan presented to lawmakers is one based on the federal government's 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances. It shows the annual salary for a never-divorced, intact family is $54,000. (An intact family on its second marriage trails close behind at $50,000). But for a family that's divorced, that figure is cut by more than half: $23,000. And for those who have never married, it's cut by over half again: $9,400.

It's not just the families who suffer, Fagan said. "There is not a single area of governmental concern, not a single budget of a major social policy area that does not grow in size when marriages fail, or when parents reject each other," he testified. "Picking up the pieces becomes not just the work of the fragmented family itself but of all taxpayers and the whole of society."

Worse, the number of victims has skyrocketed, Fagan noted. In 1950, for every 100 children born that year, 12 were part of a broken family-four were born out of wedlock and eight saw their parents divorce. By 2000, there was a fivefold increase: For every 100 children born, 60 were part a broken family-33 born out of wedlock and 27 the product of divorce.

Changing this will require a huge amount of work, Fagan said: "We need to set about restoring the conditions that will grow again a culture of belonging, with all the ingredients that go into such a culture: courtship, marriage, worship and communities of families that form neighborhoods that are nice places to come home to: neighborhoods in which romance, courtship and marriage are normal and frequent."

Fagan presented his testimony at a hearing on "What Social Science Can Tell Us about Marriage, Divorce, and Children." Research by him and other Heritage experts is available online.

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